Canada is much like the United States in many, many ways, though there are a few key differences within the respective retail industries. Not only do grocery stores sell milk in plastic bags instead of plastic jugs or cardboard cartons, Canadian shoppers also face a limited selection when shopping online with U.S.-based retailers due to restrictive shipping policies that do not accommodate shipping to Canada. Newgistics believes this is an opportunity for, not a weakness of, U.S.-based e-commerce merchants and multichannel retailers. In this two-part blog series, originally featured at RIS News, we’ll share six key principles U.S.-based retailers should keep in mind when considering the expansion of shipping into Canada. Reaching a ripe, untapped market Eighty two percent of Canadians reported having shopped online by October 2011, and the rate at which Canadians click to buy is rising rapidly—Canadians spent C$16.5 billion ($16.0 billion) in online sales in 2010, and this is expected to double to C$30.9 billion ($30 billion) by 2015. Eighty three percent of online shoppers purchased goods through Canadian e-Commerce merchants, while only 60 percent reported they purchased from U.S.-based retailers or brands. The time is right for U.S.-based companies to tackle international shipping to Canada. #1: Keep deliveries timely and cost-effective Canada is massive, but fortunately for U.S.-based retailers, 75 percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S.-Canada border. As a result, Canadians across the country expect competitive transit times for U.S. goods at cost-effective rates. Target delivery times should be within 3-7 days to all Canadian provinces and territories. #2: Simplify the returns process One of the biggest hassles for online shoppers is when they decide a purchase must be returned for any number of reasons. This negative experience—a shirt that doesn’t fit, or a lamp that arrived broken—is a critical moment for an e-Commerce merchant, and they can reduce a customer’s inconvenience by simplifying the returns process. Make returns easy and create the opportunity to build loyalty by providing your Canadian consumers with a prepaid return shipping label, available in the delivery package or online, to be attached to the order and returned via any Canada Post location. #3: Minimize Customs headaches International shipping is complicated by the customs process, which includes taxes and duties and the reclamation of taxes and duties on returns, currency exchange, and product import restrictions. Eliminate paperwork problems and accelerate the process by providing documentation to customs before the shipment reaches the border. Though the sales growth possibilities are quite lucrative, it is no small decision to begin shipping to Canada. However, the process need not be overwhelming for retailers and e-tailers. Stay tuned for the final three key principles to efficiently make the expansion into Canada, from handling returns and transit time to customer loyalty and shipment partner relations.