July 17, 2008

Special Report: Primer on Marketing to Canadians - Part II: Website Design, Advertising, Email, Search and Direct-Mail Strategies

SUMMARY: Here is Part II of our Special Report on marketing to Canadians. Knowing how to reach this audience can have a significant impact on your bottom line – with ecommerce sales increasing 26% to $62.7 billion from 2006 to 2007, according to a recent Statistics Canada report.

Check out our 7 tips for Canada-friendly websites, 5 tactics for online advertising, 5 email newsletter strategies, 7 pointers for search and direct mail.
Website-building tips:

->Tip #1. Convert currency, get postal codes

Make sure your website converts to Canadian currency and includes province and postal code boxes on the shipping and billing forms.

This is a classic blunder of merchants that ship to Canada. Consumers go to a site and find something they like. The site says the company ships to Canada, so visitors fill out shipping and billing info only to find that there is no space to enter their province or postal code –only a space for a state and zip code.

It’s critical – if you don’t have a separate site for Canadians – to make sure there is a province and postal code box in the shipping form – or a clearly marked link to a Canadian shipping form on the page. The absence of that box or link will most likely result in an abandoned cart.

->Tip #2. Divulge all costs, taxes up front

Here is another classic blunder. A Canadian shopper gets to the checkout only to find that the product he was hoping to purchase for $1o costs $30 after taxes, shipping, and customs and duty fees. You lose another sale.

Being up front about the final cost is a much better strategy. It doesn’t waste a shopper’s time. It can prevent an abandoned shopping cart.

Vendors such as WeNetShip calculate and provide this type of information for each transaction, says Murray Owen, VP Marketing, Metamend Software and Design Ltd., a marketing agency in Victoria, British Columbia.

->Tip #3. Include Canadian testimonials

Canadian consumers as a rule are more hesitant to trust “hard sell” marketing. Adding customer reviews from their peers can improve conversion rates.

“If someone says they got the product on time and shipping was great, that will speak volumes to Canadians,” Owen says.

->Tip #4. Use geotargeting

Geotargeting uses cookies to detect where a Web visitor is coming from and then adjusts the website accordingly. After a website identifies a Canadian visitor, for example, it automatically shows the ad creative, proper shipping forms, and currency conversions for them.

Kiyonna, a plus-size women’s apparel company, does a good job with geotargeting on its website. When the site detects a Canadian shopper, a banner ad with Canadian-centric images and messaging pops up. Here are two examples:

Example #1.
An ad shows an image of a Canadian flag and says: “Shopping from Canada, eh? Now you get your purchases even quicker. Ground shipping to Canada only takes three to four days and air shipping is next day.”

Example #2.
Another ad shows images of a hockey stick and puck. It says: “Not watching hockey, eh? Neither are we. We know Canadians love their fashion, so shop our contemporary dresses and separates for all your style needs.”

The most difficult part of geotargeting is “coming up with clever ideas and clever new ways to market to [Canadians] as far as the copy and the creative we put on the banner,” says Alicia Elizarraras, Marketing and Content Specialist, Kiyonna.

->Tip #5. Say ‘We ship to Canada’ on your website

If you opt not to create a separate website for Canadians, state this on your homepage or in the checkout process instead: “We ship to Canada.”

This puts Canadian consumers at ease right away, says Carolyn Gardner, Director of Customer Experience, Sitebrand, Gatineau, Quebec. It lets them know that they aren’t wasting their time on your site.

->Tip #6. Conduct usability tests

Watch a Canadian user go through your website or ask them to complete a series of simple tasks via telephone. As they are following your directions, have them tell you about the experience.

What issues are they having? What questions? How could the site be improved? This is a great way to optimize your website for the Canadian consumer.

->Tip #7. Customize landing pages

Canadians want to see landing pages designed specifically for them, including appropriate spellings, a “.ca” domain, and a French language option. Use Canadian images of a flag, camping, canoeing, mountains, beavers, maple leaves, etc. Do this for websites, email and ad creative.

Online Advertising: 5 Tips

You can reach Canadians through online advertising in several ways. Here are a few tips on content and placement.

->Tip #1. Play up strength of Canadian dollar

Kiyonna added to banner ads targeting Canadians, for example, the message: “Take advantage of your strong dollar…”

->Tip #2. Use Canadian terminology

Canadians call a cash register “the till,” for example. They also have a Canadian dollar coin known as a “loonie” – it bears an image of the loon, an aquatic bird tied closely to Canada.

Here’s another opportunity to experiment with statements, such as “shipping for a loonie” instead of “shipping for a buck,” says Chris Breikss, President, 6S Marketing, Vancouver. Canada also has a two-dollar coin called a “toonie.”

Breikss advises searching for information on the Internet. It houses hundreds of articles on the nuances in spelling, verbiage and grammar of Canadian English.

->Tip #3. Split-test ad copy

“Testing is a big deal,” says Elizarraras, especially when marketing in unfamiliar territory. Comparing different messages, offers, and promotions can help determine what appeals most to the Canadian consumer.

->Tip #4. Place ads using Google

Breikss suggests using Google placement targeting for online ads because there are thousands of Canadian sites available. Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick gives you the ability to buy advertising that targets Canadians, he says. “I think that is the best place to go right now.”

Theglobeandmail.com, the website for The Globe and Mail, Canadian’s national newspaper, also is a good place for online ad placement. It’s well-respected in Canada.

->Tip #5. Place ads on social media sites

Canada leads the world in the number of hours per week spent on social networking sites, says Paula Gignac, President, IAB Canada. Facebook, for example, ranked number four in January and February for highest number of unique Canadian visitors (15.1 million), according to recent comScore Inc. reports. The social-media site seems like a natural for Canadian-specific advertising.

Email: 5 Strategies

Guidelines for Canadian email campaigns aren’t much different from those in the U.S. You play by the same rules. Here are best U.S. practices that work in Canada too:

->Strategy #1. Keep email lists clean

Remember that Canadians are very protective of their email information. Take extra care not to send unwanted email. A recent study released by Ipsos Reid states that Canadians received 9% more email in the past year than they did in 2007.

This increase has caused more Canadians to create junk mail folders that capture about 42% of all email received. The number of Canadians who’ve registered to receive emails from at least one website fell from 80% last year to 70% this year. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re sending relevant data to your lists.

If renting, find out how a list rental provider acquires and qualifies names.

->Strategy #2. Respect opt-outs

Email laws in Canada are very similar to the ones in the U.S., so “permission-based marketing is the way to go,” Gardner says. If someone opts not to receive further email from a company, respect their wish.

->Strategy #3. Keep list size small

Research has shown that segmenting email lists greatly improves response rates. It’s no different in Canada.

“The more you can slice and dice your list, the better,” Gardner says. “To me, segmentation is an extension of relevance. And the more relevant your emails can be, the more targeted they’re going to be, and the more appreciated and acted on they will be.”

Take segmentation a step further by segmenting based on behavior. For example, send out an email with an offer especially for those who clicked or didn’t click on a previous offer.

->Strategy #4. Keep emails short

People don’t have time to scroll down every email they receive. Improve the chance that your email gets read by keeping it on one screen.

->Strategy #5. Balance text and images

Image blocking mandates that you need text in your message. If you don’t include any text in the body of your email, your message might not be seen.

A recipient might not want to spend the time to right-click on the image because they don’t know if it’s worth the effort. Tell them in the body of the email why it’s worth their time. You have to make them want to find out more about your offer.

7 Tips for Improving Natural and Paid Search

The lower cost of PPC keywords is a strong reason for marketing in Canada. Keyword competition isn’t nearly as fierce as in the U.S. for a couple of reasons: Canada has been slower to adopt PPC; there are fewer Canadian companies to compete against.

Here are seven tips for using paid and natural search in Canada:

->Tip #1. Create a “.ca” domain site

Creating a .ca domain site is not a necessity, especially since geotargeting is more optimal. But for SEO purposes, a .ca domain can significantly improve your chances of getting in front of Canadians searching for terms online. Google.ca will give preference in its delivery of .ca sites, says Owen of Metamend.

->Tip #2. Beware of Canadian terminology

For PPC keyword lists and SEO considerations, keep in mind these nuances in terminology: Canadians shop for homes, not houses; runners or trainers, not sneakers; pop, not soda; holidays, not vacations. Use the Canadian terms on your keyword lists.

->Tip #3. Add the word Canadian to PPC campaign

Canadians want to buy from Canadian sites because they might not have to pay duties, customs and high shipping fees. For instance, they might search for “Canadian shoe stores” instead of “shoe stores.” Adding “Canada” or “Canadian” to your PPC campaign might get you closer to that market. Just make sure you can back it up with the ability to ship goods to Canada.

->Tip #4. Don’t disregard local portals

Google.ca and Yahoo! Canada lead the pack when it comes to portals Canadians frequent. But it’s important not to overlook other local portals, such as ZipLocal.com and Vancouver.com. These aren’t the go-to portals for all searches, but they do provide local information to Canadians.

A Canadian hardware or home supplies store might carry U.S. plumbing supplies, for example. So, a local portal might be a good place for a banner ad promoting those products.

“If you’re looking at hitting all of Canada with a particular search term … Google.ca may be the place,” Owen says. But if you’re targeting a specific area … “sometimes you can find some nice little surprises in the smaller engines because they’re much more community-based.”

->Tip #5. Create a blog to improve SEO

Setting up a blog tailored specifically for interaction with Canadians will improve your search engine rankings. Plus, it will create more content for shoppers to scan before purchasing. Remember, as we stated in Part One of this Special Report, Canadian shoppers do a lot of research before buying.

->Tip #6. Buy a Canada directory listing

Make sure reference listings for websites include the Canadian version of your website (if you have one). Breikss says that many of the search engines pull information from these directories. Google, for example, pulls a lot of data from YellowPages.ca.

->Tip #7. Use Canadian survey results in copy

Referencing stats and graphs that come from Canadian sources is another way to improve SEO. Yahoo! Canada does a number of Canadian-focused surveys, says Breikss. So does Statistics Canada. If you’re going to use any stats on your website, make sure they’re from a Canadian source.

Direct Mail Tips

The Canadian marketing industry is still in its infancy on many fronts. Direct mail is one area that is still growing – especially if you’re looking at it from a direct retail and catalog point of view, says Paulina Sazon, Director of Retail Strategy, Canada Post.

Points to keep in mind:
o Canadians who shop by catalog have fewer choices because of the limited number of stores that ship to Canada.
o A less-saturated market can generate better response rates. Canadians respond to direct mail at a rate that is 20% higher than that of the U.S., Sazon says.
o Almost all Canadians (94%) “act on” the catalogs they receive, according to a Canada Post study. “Acting on” includes reading the catalog, passing it along to friends and family, purchasing from it, and visiting a store to make a purchase.

Your first step should be to determine what your target market is. To do so, you can use services that can match profiles of your best U.S. customers with those of Canadian prospect customers.

“Most mailers have a customer profile,” Sazon says. “They do customer segmentation.” Canada Post, for example, offers a free targeting service called ‘GeoPost Plus’ for customers mailing unaddressed direct mail items with the company. It helps the mailer find the best prospects and determine a circulation plan. ICOM Information & Communications provides similar services.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples of Canadian-specific online banner ads that Kiyonna used in its geotargeting campaign:

Past MarketingSherpa articles:

Special Report: Marketing to Canadians – Part I: How to Deal with Language, Cultural, Location and Regulation Differences

Special Report: How to Market to Canadians Online – Advice, Data, Legal Info and Useful Hotlinks

How to Use Geotargeting to Find Your Best Customers - 5 Strategies & Pitfalls to Avoid:

Other links:

Statistics Canada, ecommerce report:

IAB Canada’s Standard Terms and Conditions and Late Creative Policy:

IAB Canada’s Best Practice White Papers:

WeNetShip, import/export services:

ZipLocal, Canadian portal:

Vancouver.com, Canadian portal:

Canada Post:

Canada Post’s GeoPost Plus:

ICOM Information & Communications:

Kiyonna, plus size women’s apparel company with geotargeted ad campaign:


The Globe and Mail:

Yahoo! Canada:



Canadian Marketing Association:

6S Marketing:


Metamend, SEO marketing firm:

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