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Product Assortments for Canadian E-commerce

Prior to making any merchandising decisions about your Canadian e-commerce opera- tion, a thorough competitive audit should be conducted across a variety of dimensions:

  • Who are the important competitors in Canada (both brick-and-mortar and online), and how dominant are they in the market?

  • What is the size/depth of their assortment, and how does it differ from the U.S. (if they have a presence in the U.S.)?

  • How do they price their products? How do Canadian prices compare to the U.S.? Do sales and promotions mirror that of the U.S.?

  • How sophisticated is their e-commerce website? What features and functionality do they offer? How are products presented?

  • What are their customer service hours and policies (including returns)?

  • What are their shipping methods and costs?

This audit will provide valuable benchmarks, allowing you to understand where the bar is set and where opportunities for differentiation exist. It will also prove to be a good source of best practices and ideas for problem solving.

Ideally, your Canadian e-commerce merchandise assortment should be tailored specif- ically to the Canadian audience, taking into account Canadian taste levels, seasonality and competitive dynamics. In reality, many retailers begin by offering all or a portion of their U.S. assortment, glean information about the differences between U.S. and Cana- dian shoppers and gradually adjust and optimize the Canadian assortment to maximize sales.

If you are planning to tailor an assortment specifically to Canadian consumers, the fol- lowing factors should be considered:

  • Seasonality: Study temperature/weather patterns across Canada to understand how seasonally sensitive assortments should be handled. Watch how competitors handle the timing of seasonal floor sets and markdowns. Keep a calendar of Cana- dian holidays at hand when determining assortments.

  • Demographics, culture, and taste: Many retailers find that urban Canadians gravi- tate to European styling and color choices more so than shoppers in the U.S. While Canadian economic trends can mirror that of the U.S., merchants should watch for shifts that would indicate increasing price sensitivity or demand up-ticks that are unique to Canada.

  • Brick-and-Mortar assortments: If you have retail stores in Canada, the desired and practical level of synergy between the stores and e-commerce site will need to be determined. Given the somewhat limited online marketing opportunities in Canada, we encourage leveraging whatever possible synergies exist between the two domains. Note that Canadian store staff can be a great resource for insights into Canadian trends, style preferences, and online shopping habits.

  • Competitive offering: (see competitive audit remarks above)

Visa e-commerce cross-border handbook for U.S. retailers

Copyright 2010 Visa. All rights reserved.

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