This week Ottawa, ON-based Shopify announced that it has partnered with Canadian postal service Canada Post to add shipping features to its existing ecommerce store platform. The free Shopify Canada Post app means that Canadian retailers can now set up an online store, and fill and ship any orders that come in. Currently Shopify has over 32,000 online retailers around the world using its platform, including Gatorade and General Electric.
According to Internet Retailer, currently less than five percent of total retail sales in Canada are done online, while 10 percent of retail sales are done online in the U.S. That lag is despite the fact that ecommerce growth rate in Canada is 14.3 percent, compared to 13.8 percent in the U.S.
Shopify’s Chief Platform Officer Harley Finkelstein said that today’s partnership was a result of wanting to close that gap by providing easier and simpler shipping options both to existing customers, and to retailers who might not have considered selling online because it was too complicated. He first met with Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra last year, and this app is the result of their conversations about how to help Canadian SMBs launch online stores and fulfill orders.
“Part of it we felt was the risk aversion of Canadians, but also part of it was the functionality, there were certain tools that were just missing,” Finkelstein said in an interview, adding that while Shopify lets people create online stores, once a transaction is processed, merchants have to take care of fulfilling the order. “The idea is not only should the building the shop portion be really easy and intuitive and allow anyone to build an online store through Shopfiy, but once they’re up and running, Canadian small businesses should have an opportunity to fulfill things in a more elegant way and with less friction.”
On Shopify, merchants can set up an online store, add their products, and sell to customers around the world. The new app lets merchants with Shopify online stores print labels, either for domestic or international shipping, automatically calculate shipping rates, provide shipping estimates to shoppers during checkout, and send a tracking page to each customer after their purchase. Merchants can also insure packages, and add security features like requiring a signature.
“From an integration perspective, this is probably the tightest integration between an ecommerce platform and a shipping company in the world right now,” Finkelstein said.
The Canada Post app is available in Shopify’s app store, which has over 180 apps, including apps to import products from services like eBay and Magento, and integrations with services like Mailchimp. The company also has several shipping apps in its app store already, including package tracking apps AfterShip and PackageTracker. There are also apps like ShipEasy and ShipStation that help shop owners who want to ship via USPS or FedEx, and offers similar functionality to the CanadaPost app.
Finkelstein said while these apps are a great add-on for merchants, they’ll ideally want to work directly with shipping companies, whether the USPS or any others around the world, to create partnerships. “Obviously it’s ideal for us to get directly to a Canada Post as opposed to using a third-party intermediary, but we’re using this Canada Post partnership as a bit of a proof of concept.”
To help onboard offline merchants, the company is also offering free Shopify stores to Canada Post VentureOne members (the program provides shipping discounts to small businesses) for three months. That program reportedly has 200,000 members, compared to Shopify’s base of 2,500 Canadian merchants, so it opens them up to a broad new audience of businesses.
According to a release from Canada Post and Shopify announcing the partnership, total expenditures on Canadian ecommerce business-to-consumer shipping services alone were more than $600 million in 2011. While shipping costs are still prohibitive to many offline and online merchants, especially those shipping internationally, apps like this could be a good way to turn brick-and-mortar retailers into brick-and-click. The company will need to take this app and replicate it in the rest of its large markets in order to truly make shipping on the Shopify platform a seamless experience.