TL; DR: Chit Chats is a cloud-hosted platform helping Canadian ecommerce businesses gain access to affordable shipping rates. The company works closely with Canada Post, USPS, and Asendia to facilitate shipping within Canada, to the U.S., and internationally. Through integrations with Shopify, eBay, and Amazon, among other sellers, Chit Chats is making it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to build successful ecommerce businesses.
The 1.1 million small and medium-sized businesses in Canada serve as the nation’s economic backbone, accounting for approximately $1 trillion of Canada’s gross domestic product. Roughly 44,700 Canadians started a new business in 2018 alone, representing the highest increase in entrepreneurial activity in a decade.
According to Statistics Canada, small businesses are increasingly turning to ecommerce platforms to make sales. The timing is right: Over the past year, ecommerce businesses worldwide have seen a coronavirus-induced boom in online sales that will likely persist.
Canadian entrepreneurs, however, have to overcome exorbitantly high shipping costs to get their share of this growing ecommerce pie. To further compound the problem, 75% of consumers surveyed in 2019 said they expect delivery to be free, even on orders of less than $50.
Chit Chats, a cloud-hosted shipping platform, aims to provide cost-effective, fully tracked shipping alternatives so entrepreneurs can live out their dreams.
“Our main focus is to make shipping costs affordable for Canadian entrepreneurs, whether the customer is a mom with a side hustle or a small-business owner,” said Juhee Cha, Communications Manager at Chit Chats. “There are so many facets of entrepreneurship that are difficult to navigate, so we try to make the shipping process as painless as possible.”
The 100% Canadian-owned and operated company has been helping facilitate a borderless ecommerce industry since 2001. Through partnerships with Canada Post, the USPS, and Asendia, the company can reduce shipping costs by as much as 74%.
Such significant savings work to break down financial barriers to entry for entrepreneurs in the online space, democratizing online sales for the benefit of sellers, customers, and the Canadian economy at large.
From an Entrepreneurial Pain Point to an Affordable Shipping Platform
The origin story of Chit Chats goes back to 1998 when Derek Nolan started a brick-and-mortar book store in Ontario. By 1999, he began selling books online through eBay but was alarmed by Canada’s high shipping costs.
“He realized that the prices were drastically lower if he just drove across the border,” Juhee said. “Because he was very personable, he knew a lot of other businesses and other entrepreneurs and started spreading the word. And all of these people said, ‘Hey, can you take my books, too?’”
Derek knew he was on to something as he watched his little green station wagon fill up with shipments. In 2000, he formally founded Chit Chats Express (now known as just Chit Chats), which quickly snowballed into a successful business. “His main goal was always to help other entrepreneurs,” Juhee said.
The company opened its first physical branch for dropoffs, located in Markham, Ontario, in 2011, followed by the Mississauga branch in 2012. The company’s headquarters in Pickering opened in 2014.
“At that point, it was a very manual business using Google Sheets, but the growth was exploding — more and more people wanted to use his services,” Juhee said. “In 2017, Chit Chats partnered with the tech company Reinvent, which facilitated the launch of our current platform.”
Today, Chit Chats has branches across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic region, with drivers crossing the border six days a week.
Handy Integrations with Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, and More
As of late 2018, Amazon was by far America’s biggest online marketplace, with a reported 20.6 million users visiting the company’s websites monthly. To facilitate a streamlined ordering process, the Chit Chats platform features built-in integrations with Amazon and other popular ecommerce companies, including Etsy, eBay, and Shopify.
“Chit Chats is amazing! The ability to send parcels to the U.S. has completely transformed my business and saved me tons of money,” said customer Matt B. in a testimonial on the company’s home page. “It’s a super easy-to-use online system that imports orders from my Shopify and Etsy stores and prints mailing labels with just a few clicks. If you ship to the U.S., definitely look into Chit Chats.”
In the rare case that Chit Chats does not integrate with a user’s ecommerce platform, they can use a simple CSV file to get the job done. Most marketplaces allow users to export order data into such a file, which they can then import into their Chit Chats account. Chit Chats even provides sample CSV file templates for various platforms.
The company also offers a developer-friendly application programming interface (API), allowing developers to build custom integrations with the Chit Chats platform.
“We want to do everything we can to build bridges to our platform, making it easier for online sellers to ship their products,” Juhee said. “Shipping is complicated; we want to help people get through the process as easily and affordably as possible.”
Process, Track, and Insure Your Packages
Today, Chit Chats offers shipping to the U.S. through the USPS, shipping within Canada via Canada Post, and international shipments through Asendia (a joint venture between France’s La Poste and Swiss Post.)
Juhee acknowledged that shipping within Canada can be problematic. Not only is it expensive, but as a Crown corporation, Canada Post can get backed up quickly, as it makes deliveries to 16.5 million addresses across Canada.
“We still are tackling that problem,” she said. “We have a partnership with Canada Post that allows us to utilize our volume discount and pass them on directly to our clients. However, we know that there’s still room to drive those costs lower because they are still more expensive than the USPS.”
COVID-19 only exacerbated the issue in 2020 as buyers rapidly embraced cloud-hosted stores and marketplaces, causing unprecedented backlogs across the globe.
“We’ve seen the ecommerce industry hit some crazy milestones during the last year with more people being at home and ordering things online,” Juhee said. “Our way to contribute is by making shipping as painless and low-cost as possible so that Canadian entrepreneurs can live out their dreams.”
Part of streamlining the process is considering tracking and insurance. To that end, Chit Chats partners with U-PIC, a third-party parcel insurer, to cover any losses or damage with a quick and easy claims process.
The company’s tracking portal makes it easy to keep an eye on shipments and is accessible by both the sender and recipient.
Plans to Reach Even More Entrepreneurs
Juhee told us that thus far, Chit Chats has relied on word-of-mouth to attract new customers — a testament to just how happy they are.
“We haven’t had any big marketing campaigns,” she said. “We’re thankful that a lot of people see the benefit and the value of the company, and they share that information with their other friends or entrepreneurs.”
Chit Chat plans to open more physical branches to expand access to the company as the ongoing pandemic continues to affect shipments.
“We are really focused on growth,” Juhee said. “A lot of people live in, say, Manitoba, and can’t physically get to one of our locations. We just opened a branch in Vaughn, and we’re looking to expand that growth.”
The company also plans to grow in terms of services offered.
“Our ultimate goal is to create features that will help entrepreneurs in other areas of the business, such as fulfillment,” Juhee said.