Building a Magento site for Canada

Let’s talk about Magento and building a Magento site in Canada.  For the most part, the things that you require are going to be the same at the basic level – theme, gateways, etc.  However, there are a few things that are very specific that is needed for a Canadian store.

Shipping

You are going to need a Canada Post shipping module. Sure, you could ship via FedEx or UPS, but Canada Post is by far the cheapest system in Canada itself.  Purolator comes as a close second, but it’s still pretty expensive.  If you are shipping B2B though, I’d definitely look at either Purolator or one of the other companies rather than Canada Post as their combined shipping options (i.e. multiple parcels to same location) can drive costs down.

Accounting

You are going to need to figure out your accounting.  Now, if you are purchasing only in Canada, you don’t really need anything major or different – however, if you are importing products from the States or elsewhere, you will need to tie-in purchasing and logistics with your sales.  Quickbooks works well for this, but understand you’ll need a software to import the stock/etc in – it doesn’t connect directly very well.  Webtex is one option – but again, once you hit a certain volume of products, you’ll definitely want a better solution.

That’s where things get tricky- very few systems out there tie-in accounting with Magento very well.  Look for a dedicated system that deals with Magento and multiple currencies.

Domain names .ca

You will want a .ca domain name.  Purchasing one is pretty cheap per year – about $10 per year.  In the beginning, you might want to just redirect the .ca to your .com; but not having it is a bad idea.

Google Webmaster

Okay, here’s an interesting thing to do – make sure to connect Google Webmaster Tools to your site and then target your site to Canada.  It’s an immediate boost for your listings in Canada but

Currency / Canadaisms

Don’t forget to mention what currency you are selling everything in.  Not only is this necessary for your payment gateway, you’ll also want to keep your precious Canadian consumers on-board for longer.  Definitely consider flying the Canadian flag somewhere prominent – it’ll keep your target market on your site longer.

French / English

Have only a few products? Seriously consider putting up a French translation of your site.  It’s a great way to get customers from Quebec and help you rank higher for a certain demographic.  Of course, the problem is if you have a lot of different products, you might want to avoid this due to the huge costs of implementation.

Analytics – Details Matter

Recently did an analysis of one our businesses – Starlit Citadel – and noticed that conversion rates had taken a drastic turn down.  It went from 1.56% to 1.15%.  That’s a horrid, horrid drop and even though we had a lot of competition show up recently, it seemed like a truly significant drop.

Now there’s a few things we could do.  Drop our prices and kill our margins, which if it had allowed our conversion rates to stay the same would have resulted in overall higher sales and a marginal improvement in profits (before taking into account additional staffing costs, etc.).

On the other hand, perhaps we should look more closely first.  So, here’s what we looked at to figure out the change:

  • Compared it to previous year stats – nope, still a drop for sure
  • Compared it against traffic sources – all over drop pretty much. Not good…
  • Compared it across new and old visitors – hmmm… new visitors were the one who killed it most
  • Compared it based on location – ah, this is more interesting.  Traffic had gone up significantly in countries outside of Canada.  This pushed down our conversion rates because people who aren’t Canadian just aren’t that interested in us.

As we said, details matter.  If we had decided to take steps to decrease our prices and increase our conversion rate, it would have helped but only a bit.  Instead, we’d have suffered more of a loss because the traffic from outside of Canada just don’t care about us. A price drop just wouldn’t help.

So, details matter.  Dig, dig, dig to understand what happened and is happening.

Bitcoins for E-Commerce in Canada

Ever wondered if you should integrate Bitcoins onto your site? Well, while Starlit Citadel isn’t the largest site around, we do have a significant presence.  Here’s a quick pie chart comparing the number of orders we received using Bitcoin as a payment method compared to our other payment methods.

Pie chart of bitcoin sales vs other payment methods

Bitcoin sales for half of 2014 compared to other payment methods

This pie chart consists of our sales from Q1 to Q2 2014 on Starlit Citadel.    We have Bitcoins on Fortress Geek too, but since SC is much larger, we figured it would be a better chart.  There’s not a significant difference between the two.

I don’t have to say much – Bitcoin’s a nice idea, but right now; at least in Canada, the uptake has not reached a point where it’s a significant payment method.  It might be different in the US where the population numbers are much higher as usual, but in Canada it’s probably not worth the time (unless you have nothing better to do).

Revenue Streams Online (2) – Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing; boiled down to its essence is the process of trading eyeballs for sales on other people’s sites.  It’s not always sales – sometimes you get paid for an action (signing up to a newsletter, visiting a certain page, etc.) but it’s mostly about sales.   It’s also one of the more popular revenue streams available, so let’s do the Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • Low cost of entry. All you need is a website to start.  Once you generate the traffic, you can get the links for the various affiliate sites to develop your sales.
  • No inventory or customer service hassles
  • Can be an extremely passive form of income – once the website is up, the processing of sales/etc is left up to the affiliated company, not yours
  • Easy to enter / work with  multiple websites with multiple industries, allowing you to experiment with profitability
  • Can be mixed with other revenue streams like advertising very easily

Cons

  • Extremely competitive marketplace partly due to the low cost of entry
  • Can take a long time to develop sufficient traffic to generate decent revenue.  As you are sending traffic away, you get approximately 50% of all visitors at best to the affiliated site.  Those then convert at between 1-3%; so traffic must be significant.
  • You are dependent on 3rd party sites, for both payments as well as the processing of the orders and overall conversion rates / usability of other sites
  • As majority traffic is often generated directly from search engines / referrals (especially for smaller sized sites); you are most liable to Google algorithm changes