Expanding your online sales to the U.S.? Plan your shipping strategy

2 minute read

In order to grow, many Canadian e-commerce business owners sell to the United States. Due to the enormous amount of potential customers stateside, combined with a strong U.S. dollar that makes Canadian prices more attractive to American shoppers, it often leads to fantastic growth.

But even though they’re our closest trading partners, Americans are different from us, and their regulations about imported items can make doing business south of the border feel daunting.

Naomi Beebe, owner of Beazuness, is a prime example of a Canadian entrepreneur who has made a big splash in the U.S.

Under the Beazuness brand, Beebe sells handcrafted jewelry via the Etsy online marketplace. 'I wanted to expand my business so that I could stay at home and grow my family, and today, 61 per cent of my customers are in the U.S.,' she says."

Getting established

Beebe believes e-commerce businesses can successfully expand into the U.S. by doing research, playing up our Canadian culture, and excelling in communication. Specifically, she recommends:

  • Determining what goods are allowed into the U.S. “Previously one had to research a variety of sites, but Canada Post has consolidated all the information from different sources into a single online spot,” says Beebe. Another good resource is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, which provides information on customs and exporting to the United States.
  • Incorporating Canada’s reputation for geniality into your transaction. “Be friendly in your voice and email correspondence,” she says. “Americans love us for this quality.”
  • Maintaining communications throughout the transaction process. “Customers are used to instant gratification, but even though you may send an item quickly, it could be held up by customs. Communicating regularly with customers helps ensure a satisfying experience,” says Beebe.

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Shipping rates made easy

Beebe goes on to note that determining shipping prices can be done quickly thanks to available online resources. “All you need to do is plug in your postal code and that of your client, along with the dimensions of your parcel, and you’ll get an accurate estimate of cost,” she says.

Mitigating waits

Beebe warns that dealing with U.S. customs can be challenging, considering the potential for items to be held for a variety of reasons. But there are ways to mitigate the problem:

  • Fill out your customs form accurately and with as much detail as possible. You can download your customs form on the Canada Post website.
  • Ensure the stated value of goods matches the enclosed customer invoice. “That way, if customs opens the package, they won’t see any discrepancy,” explains Beebe.
  • Include your phone number on the customs form, especially for express shipments, in the event customs has any questions about the content of your package.

Size doesn’t matter

Doing business with the U.S. has become an invaluable way to grow virtually any type of company. Naomi Beebe proves that even a business of one can master the intricacies of cross-border trade, and reap the rewards.

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