Selling to the U.S. is a natural step for the growth of many Canadian e-commerce business owners.
In fact, due to the enormous amount of potential customers stateside, combined with a strong U.S. dollar making Canada more attractive to American shoppers, it often means the difference between limited success and 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 seem daunting.
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 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.
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.
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 business. Naomi Beebe proves that even a company of one can master the intricacies of cross-border trade, and reap the rewards.
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