With school out, vacation plans in full swing, and countless milestones to celebrate, Canadian e-commerce businesses are busy in summer. People are shopping online for everything from trip essentials to fun activities for their kids during heatwaves, and yes, getting a jump on back-to-school supplies. In 2023 alone, e-commerce businesses in Canada recorded close to 12 billion Canadian dollars in sales from June through August.

But with this surge in online shopping comes the challenge of ensuring these goods clear customs quickly and make it to their final destinations on time. The influx of orders means more shipments creating a bottleneck at Canadian ports and clearing customs. Without efficient customs clearance processes, importers risk delays and dissatisfied customers.


Customs Clearance Challenges for E-commerce Businesses

As e-commerce activity ramps up during Canada’s summer peak season, so does customs clearance’s complexity. First of all, the high volume of shipments during the summer leads to significant congestion. With more people shopping online for vacations, activities, and back-to-school supplies, the number of shipments in transit creates bottlenecks at Canadian ports, slowing down the customs clearance process and making it harder for businesses to deliver their products to eager customers on time. The increased load on customs authorities can result in longer wait times and delays.

Then there’s the issue of clearing customs. Canada has specific tariffs, duties, and compliance standards that must be met for every imported item, which e-commerce businesses, especially those new to international trade, often find overwhelming. Accurate documentation and an understanding of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) are essential to avoid penalties and delays. Mistakes in this area can result in shipments being held up, adding to costs and delaying deliveries.

Finally, the risk of delays, additional costs, and customer dissatisfaction is always present. When goods are held up at customs, it can lead to increased storage fees and missed delivery deadlines. These delays not only add unexpected costs but also impact customer satisfaction. Frustrated customers may lose trust in the business, which can damage its reputation. 


How to Streamline the Customs Clearance Process and Overcome its Challenges

Optimizing the customs clearance process can help your e-commerce business fulfill more orders faster, even during Canada’s summer peak season. Here’s what you need to do.

Prepare for the Summer in Advance

During the slower, colder months, e-commerce businesses should strategically prepare for the busier seasons. Start by analyzing sales data from previous years to predict trends and accurately stock up for the anticipated increase in demand. This proactive approach helps ensure you have the right inventory on hand when sales pick up.

It’s also a good idea to implement a clear returns and refunds policy to minimize the impact on your customs clearance and keep customers happy. This includes preparing for the possibility of return shipments needing to go through customs clearance again, which requires accurate and complete documentation.

Additionally, use this period to train your staff on customs procedures and regulations. Educate your team about Canadian customs regulations, including tariff classifications and required documentation. This training can help prevent common mistakes that lead to setbacks and delays at the border, ensuring that your operations run smoothly.

Communicate Effectively With Customers

Maintaining clear and open communication with your customers helps manage expectations and builds trust. It also helps protect your e-commerce business against potential liabilities. Practically speaking, this means being transparent about pricing, shipping strategies, customs processes, any additional charges they might incur, such as duties and taxes, as well as potential delays. 

Tap into Logistics Technology

Integrating logistics technologies improves operational efficiency and transforms customs clearance for e-commerce businesses, while boosting customer confidence. This is achieved by adopting the following technology solutions:

  • Automated customs solutions handle everything from documentation to compliance tasks, significantly reducing the chances of human error. 
  • Real-time tracking solutions provide continuous updates on shipment statuses, allowing both businesses and customers to monitor progress. E-commerce businesses can quickly identify and address any issues that arise, keeping customers informed and satisfied. 

Comply with Regulations

Importing items into Canada involves strict regulations, from prohibited items to proper classification and labeling, as well as thorough documentation and payment of duties and tariffs. Ensuring that all documentation, such as commercial invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin, is accurate and complete is essential to avoiding costly delays and fines. 

One effective way to manage these complexities is to use tools like duty calculators, which help estimate the duties and taxes applicable to your shipments. Additionally, offering a Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) option can simplify the process for your customers by covering these costs upfront.

Partnering with a customs broker like Clearit can streamline this process even further. Brokers provide expert guidance on Canadian customs regulations and handle all necessary documentation and regulatory compliance, allowing e-commerce businesses to focus on their core operations and improve efficiency during peak seasons.


Summer Shipping Made Simple Starts With Support

If you’re looking for support with importing items for your Canadian e-commerce business during the busy summer season, you’re in luck. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offers comprehensive guides on importing regulations, including classifying goods, required documentation, and applicable duties and taxes. Programs from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) assist with business registration and GST/HST obligations, while Export Development Canada (EDC) provides financial assistance and trade support through loans, guarantees, and market research. Additionally, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce provides advocacy and international trade resources. 

And on the Clearit end, we simplify the customs clearance process by handling all necessary documentation and regulatory requirements on your businesses’ behalf. Partnering with us can help your shipments move through customs without delays or penalties, promoting greater e-commerce customer satisfaction.