Unlocking growth in Canada: 7 Strategies for successful expansion

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Canada, with its diverse population of over 37 million people, presents a vibrant market ripe for exploration. Canadians, known for their friendly demeanor and multiculturalism, value inclusivity and diversity. With English and French as official languages, businesses must navigate a bilingual landscape to truly resonate with the local audience.

Canadians are avid internet users, with approximately 95% of the population having access to the internet. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook (Meta), and YouTube are most popular, with Canadians spending an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social media.

In recent years, trends such as sustainable living, health and wellness, and technology adoption have gained significant traction among Canadians. Additionally, there’s a growing interest in supporting local businesses, with consumers prioritizing authenticity and community engagement.

For U.S. or Canadian advertisers eyeing expansion into new markets, Canada offers a compelling choice. With a population comparable to California and average household incomes of approximately $70,000 per year, neglecting the Canadian market is akin to leaving the entire purchasing power of California untapped.

To effectively tap into this opportunity, consider the following seven tips to scale your affiliate program in the Canadian market:

  1. Harness Insights into Canadian Consumer Behavior: Understanding Canadian consumer behavior is key to tailoring your affiliate program to resonate with the local audience. Dive deep into preferences, cultural nuances, and purchasing habits to drive higher engagement and conversions.
  2. Embrace Comprehensive Localization: Given Canada’s bilingual landscape, invest in robust localization efforts by translating marketing materials and communications into both English and French (Canadian). This demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, fostering deeper connections with Canadian audiences. Watch out for spelling differences, such as “colour” vs “color”.
  3. Leverage Partnerships with Canadian Influencers: Partnering with Canadian influencers can amplify your brand’s reach and credibility. With over 80% of Canadians trusting recommendations from influencers, influencer marketing presents a potent tool for driving brand awareness and loyalty.
  4. Deploy Canadian-specific Promotions: Capitalize on Canadian holidays and seasonal trends by crafting targeted promotions tailored to local preferences. Don’t forget about Canadian shopping days to capitalize on seasonality. Canadians are increasingly seeking deals and discounts, presenting an opportune moment to capture their attention and drive sales.
  5. Adapt to Canadian Payment Preferences: Familiarize yourself with the payment methods preferred by Canadian consumers, whether its credit cards, mobile payment solutions, or alternative methods specific to Canada. Make sure you offer payment options in CAD (Canadian Dollars), as the exchange rate can deter Canadian buyers. Accommodating these preferences ensures seamless transactions and enhances the overall shopping experience.
  6. Ensure Compliance with Canadian Regulations: Canada has stringent regulations governing data protection and consumer rights, such as PIPEDA. Adhering to Canadian laws not only mitigates legal risks but also fosters trust and credibility among Canadian partners and customers.
  7. Deliver Exceptional Customer Support: Providing bilingual customer support in English and French (Canadian) demonstrates a commitment to serving Canadian customers effectively. Accessible and responsive support enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty, driving repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

There are many incredible Canadian-based businesses in every vertical, and they deserve to have strategies and networks nuanced for their specific business needs.

For example, Rakuten Advertising has a Canadian business entity which has been flourishing in Canada since 2006. In 2019 their Leadership team identified the need to build out a Canadian team to support and invest in the country. This means they have boots on the ground, work within provincial laws, and are tax compliant in each province so they can properly pay publishers and they do not need to back out their provincial sales tax in order to reconcile affiliate revenue.

They also currently host the only in-person affiliate event in the country: Dealmaker Canada, hosted every Autumn in Toronto to bring advertisers, publishers and agency partners together for a brilliant day of networking and industry knowledge sharing.

Canada represents a thriving economy and proximity and similarity to the U.S. that many advertisers appreciate. Because of the proximity and purchasing similarities, U.S. companies can benefit from expanding market reach into the Canadian market today.

Canada’s largest publisher also happens to be part of the Rakuten International family: Rakuten.ca.  They work closely with their Toronto-based team and they share perks and savings when launching on a platform with 7.5M Canadians across the entire country. Rakuten also created “Grow with Optimism” and “Shop With Purpose” categories within Canada to highlight Canadian-owned, Woman-Owned, LGBTQIA+-owned and BIPOC-owned brands.

“The Canadian affiliate market is one that has seen steady growth for years. For decades Rakuten Advertising has been a leader in affiliate in Canada, and we’ve seen how Canadian brands and publishers have continued to grow and evolve alongside all of ecommerce. As the leading global affiliate network, we pride ourselves on our expertise in helping advertisers expand their reach into new global markets – and Canada is certainly no exception.” – Nick Stamos, CEO, Rakuten Advertising

Although loyalty affiliates like Rakuten.ca, AEROPLAN and AirMiles are still some of the countries top partners, Content and Media publishers are on the rise. Companies such as All Inclusive Marketing (AIM) leverage their Canadian based teams and customer expertise to work with these partners and drive growth for brands looking to expand in different provinces and across the country.

Krysta Gutteridge from the Rakuten Canada team states that it’s been interesting to see large U.S. based publishers make the move (and investment) as well to create Canadian programs of their own. Capital One Shopping is a great example of this and they’re having great success expanding into the Canadian market.

A few fun facts about Canada in less than 3 minutes!

This post highlights seven key tips for expanding an affiliate program into Canada, and this comprehensive ebook focused on the Canadian market can help spell out even more nuances and details needed for a successful launch and scale in a market that is still quite untapped.

I encourage you to check it out and learn how to unlock incremental growth opportunities as you think about scaling your affiliate program even further this year.

And if you have any questions, you know where to find me, eh?