5 from 5: Advice from 5 Canadian ecommerce leaders

5 minute read

Want to lead the pack in ecommerce this year? These five Canadian ecommerce leaders can help. Here are their best tips and advice on how to scale, optimize and set goals for your ecommerce business.

Jenn Harper: Showcase your brand’s values

When it comes to building your brand, it’s critical to align with your customers’ values. Environmental protection and sustainability are very important to today’s consumers. In fact, 36 per cent of Canadian online shoppers will shop more with retailers who promote an environmental cause. If your brand strives to support the planet, it’s a great idea to showcase your beliefs and efforts to your customers as part of your marketing strategy. Cheekbone Beauty does just that. The sustainable, socially conscious beauty brand embodies the Earth-focused beliefs of its Founder and CEO Jenn Harper, who has roots in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

“This concept of sustainability is not new for Indigenous peoples. Take the whole idea of seven generations thinking. If you were to think seven generations ahead about what you’re doing today, how would you act? It’s powerful to think how our people have been doing that for hundreds and thousands of years. That kind of thinking is a big thread through our plans.”

Jenn Harper

Founder and CEO,

Cheekbone Beauty

A commitment to the environment and sustainability does not guarantee you success – but your efforts may resonate deeply with your customers. By communicating your environmental focus, actions and beliefs with your customers, you can motivate them to buy from you. This issue may be trending now, but it will be important forever. “There’s no end point to sustainability,” says Harper.

André Malépart: Develop a strong omnichannel strategy

To succeed in business today, it’s critical to reach and serve your customers across multiple channels. That’s why a well-planned omnichannel model can be so impactful.

Agatha Boutique originally launched as an ecommerce business in 2012. Co-founder and VP André Malépart and his business partner knew they wanted to expand the business to include brick-and-mortar locations after just two years. Agatha first opened a warehouse store in Mirabel in 2014 and then a boutique in Mount Royal in 2019. The boutique embodied their brand’s essence in a tangible way and delivered a memorable brand experience to consumers who encountered their products on social media. It catapulted the brand because omnichannel experiences, when done well, grow sales.

For me, a sale is a sale no matter where it comes from. The synergy of online and brick-and-mortar can’t be overlooked.

André Malépart

Co-founder and VP,

Agatha Boutique

Ecommerce may be your focus, but an engaging in-store channel has its place, too. Synergy is key to growth. No matter where or how shoppers interact with your brand, shopping with you should be seamless, easy, efficient and responsive. In fact, 63 per cent of consumers expect the same level of personal service across your brand’s channels.

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Dr. Liza Egbogah: Get personal with your ecommerce customers

Dr. Liza Egbogah, Founder and Owner of Dr. Liza Shoes, emphasizes the importance of building a standout ecommerce customer experience. By encouraging her customers to put their best foot forward, she built an ecommerce business that truly supports them. She built a virtual community of women and cultivated a brand that fosters a deep and personal connection to the heart of the company – herself.

I look at my brand the way I look at my patient base – everything I do is to help them live their best lives. I want women to be comfortable, to feel stylish, to do what they want, to look great and feel great. That’s why there’s so much of me in the brand.

Dr. Liza Egbogah

Founder and Owner,

Dr. Liza Shoes

This personal approach to customer relations helped Egbogah achieve success both before and during the pandemic. Before COVID-19, she interacted face to face with customers at pop up locations. When things changed, she pivoted to provide that same level of attention and personal service virtually. To deliver it, she redesigned her ecommerce site – twice – to foster a more interactive and intimate experience. By weaving in elements like chat, quizzes and FAQs into her ecommerce site, she was able to boost consumer confidence and make the online experience accessible to all customers – new and old.

This is wise because 65 per cent of consumers say they will abandon their cart when the online store is too difficult to navigate (so they can find what they want elsewhere), and 44 per cent will abandon their carts if they are unable to connect with the retailer to ask questions.

To help the brand’s virtual community thrive on social media, Egbogah interacts with members directly to offer advice, strike up meaningful conversations and even brainstorm ideas for the next season’s collection.

By fostering and nurturing strong brand-customer bonds, your business can weather unexpected storms and survive major changes, unexpected shocks and the test of time. With that in mind, it may be time to redesign your ecommerce site to boost purchase confidence and drive sales.

Stéphanie Cloutier: Add direct marketing to your marketing mix

Stéphanie Cloutier, Marketing Director of Doyon Després, knows firsthand the critical role that direct marketing can play in an ecommerce business’ success. The kitchen equipment supplier serves hotels, restaurants and commercial institutions across the country, offering a wide selection of professional-grade equipment. Their supplies are useful for home cooks too, though that message wasn’t as clear as the company wanted. Home chefs recognized the brand by name but associated it with the restaurant industry. To change that perception, Doyon Després modified their marketing tactics, incorporating direct mail.

By using Canada Post’s existing customer database, they were able to assess who their typical customers were and develop a targeted approach to reach homeowners in specific demographics with similar average incomes to their existing clients. The new tactic yielded great results – in-store and online sales grew by 35 per cent over the previous year, and online sales increased by 193 per cent.

We allocated more dollars to our campaign with Canada Post, to cover all regions where our stores are located.

Stéphanie Cloutier

Marketing Director,

Doyon Després

If your message isn’t reaching new consumers, it’s time to rethink your marketing mix, incorporating fresh tactics that can help you grow sales. You need to reach out to consumers where they are, and direct marketing is a great way to do that. In fact, 22 per cent of consumers say that a flyer or ad they received in the mail captured their attention.

Ashley Freeborn: Make meaningful connections with your ecommerce customers

Ashley Freeborn, CEO of Smash and Tess, knows the importance of forging and nurturing real connections with online customers. The fashion retailer specializes in rompers that are versatile and well made. Their products sold well and trended during the pandemic – as they met new demand for quality apparel designed to suit an at-home lifestyle.

The business adheres to a direct-to-consumer ecommerce business model that helped them enjoy explosive growth in 2020 and 2021. Sales increased nearly 80 per cent year over year.

Smash and Tess prioritizes authenticity and transparency in their marketing strategy – something Freeborn highlights as central to their success. Freeborn extends that transparency to herself, inviting customers virtually into her home, introducing them to her family, showcasing her life as it happens.

People want to know who is behind a brand. What they stand for. What their values are. How they show up when it comes to their community. People want to be proud of their connection with a brand. That is such a privilege for us – but it is also a huge responsibility.

Ashley Freeborn,


Smash and Tess

Freeborn’s marketing strategy is right on the money as 26 per cent of consumers will read more about a brand and its values after discovering it.

Smash and Tess shows their team and the brand’s personal side loud and proud by showcasing their values and their team members across their social media channels and their website. In their ecommerce product listings, they rely on photography that features models in a range of sizes. This helps their customers feel seen – whether they wear XXS or XXXL. It also shows their customers exactly how their products may fit them with images that truly represent them – building trust.

Meaningful customer connections are key to success. To foster them, stand behind every word you say as a brand and conduct business authentically.

Canada Post. 2021 Canada Post Canadian Online Shopping Survey, June 2021.

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