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Chapter 6: IT and operations

Authored by: William J. Spaide and Tamy S. Butterfield, Spaide, Kuipers & Company


The primary operating objective for any online retailer is to build and manage a customer service and fulfillment environment that delivers a superior level of service to the customer at an acceptable cost to the business. This goal is difficult for a retailer to achieve in its own domestic market, let alone in a new international market, such as Canada. For that reason, if international expansion is to succeed, the retailer must provide to its international customer a shopping experience comparable to its domestic customer’s experience. This includes things like easy ordering and returning of merchandise, customer-friendly service policies, and quick, low-cost shipping options.


Sub-topics: With a focus on the decision-making framework necessary to ensure a successful entry into the Canadian online retailing marketplace, this chapter will address three critical activities. These activities are necessary when designing, building, and managing a world-class operating environment to support a Canadian e-commerce business:

  • Discovery;

  • Operations planning; and

  • Implementation.

The first step in the discovery process is to establish the relevant business requirements needed to launch the new Canadian enterprise. This includes, but is not limited to, cus- tomer acquisition and traffic opportunities, multi-year sales projections, merchandise and other related product considerations, and financial and legal implications such as tax, duty, payment methods, etc. Most of these requirements are detailed elsewhere in this handbook. For the most part, this chapter will focus instead on identifying the serv- ice, operating, and system requirements that are unique to the Canadian marketplace.

Service-related Requirements

  • Localization: Customer touch-points, including the website, contact center and other customer communication activities, should employ both French and Canadian English, i.e., color versus colour. Also, certain terminology, e.g., zip codes versus postal codes and seasonal promotional practices including “back to school” in July or t-shirt sales in the fall, should be modified for the Canadian market.

  • Communications: When it comes to customer service contacts, Canadians prefer live online chat as opposed to emails. If Canadian enquiries are being answered outside of Canada, attention must be paid to slang, such as “ah ha” instead of yes.

  • Currency management: Merchandise and other related costs should be displayed in Canadian dollars on the appropriate product pages and at checkout.

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

Copyright 2010 Visa. All rights reserved.


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