Case studies e-commerce

e-Commerce case study: St. Jean’s Cannery, Nanaimo

e-Commerce case study: St. Jean’s Cannery, Nanaimo by Sean Enns

St. Jean’s Cannery is a family business, operating in Nanaimo for more than 50 years. They started as a backyard canning operation in 1961, and grew to become British Columbia’s only full-service canning operation for sport fishermen on B.C.’s coast.

The problem

Previously on Corecommerce, they needed a new solution that could meet their clients’ shipping needs, offering options to ship via FedEx, Purolator, and Canada Post from two locations, one in Canada and one in the US. The solution would have to encompass a vast array of features and options, while keeping the user experience seamless and simple.

How Harbour City SEO solved their problem.

We created a set of rules that would intelligently analyze where the user came from, what they were purchasing, and where they’d be getting it shipped to. The website would invisibly intuit the appropriate shipping rate and provide it to the client.

The skinny

With more than 50 years on the Island serving sport fishermen and fishing lodges, St. Jean’s had built a reputation of providing a great product.The new website would feature more shipping options, a clean, responsive, modern design, and custom storefronts for US and Canadian visitors.

It was important to be sensitive to budget. By leveraging a premium theme with third-party plugins, we’d be able to focus our attention on a great user experience and high-quality content.

After rigorous tests on desktop, Android and iPhone devices, we decided on a minimalist theme with a ton of options for sliders, parallax, and interactive elements. In a way, the new site would be analogous to St. Jean’s canned goods: a slick wrapper, with an oh-so delicious product inside.

For the cart processes, we went with WooCommerce. With WordPress, we could have used other carts: Cart66, Jigoshop, and WP e-Commerce are just a few of the shopping options, but in the end we decided on WooCommerce for the same reason that I recommend WordPress. Basically, ubiquity. It’s everywhere.

WordPress is the most downloaded CMS in the world at almost an unimaginable scale. Putting it into context, when I started writing this post, WordPress had been downloaded 34,450,345 times. By the time I’d finished about an hour and a half later, that number had grown by almost 17,000. There are over 29,000 plugins and extensions – many of them free – to extend WordPress’ functionality from basic blog to powerful publishing platform.


It’s not just downloads either. Worldwide activity on WordPress outpaces all other platforms. Over 409 million people view more than 15.5 billion pages each month. Users produce about 41.7 million new posts and 60.5 million new comments each month.

The map illustrates posts being published on in real time.

Our other option, Magento, was no slouch either; it’s an ultra-powerful e-com solution. But the learning curve is high, and the features weren’t there: we’d likely need to spend a lot on custom development, something I was hoping to avoid by going with WordPress.

Once we’d installed and activated our premium theme and set up our cart pages, it was time to get to brass tacks. We’d need to import content from the old St. Jean’s site into this one, a move meant to keep us on track to meet milestones by saving countless hours on product entry. That was easily done with WP All Import, a powerful plugin built to bring in imports via any CSV or XML file.

Because we were using WooCommerce, I knew in most cases we’d be able to avoid costly custom programming and use third-party plugins to solve St. Jean’s entirely unique, and extremely complex, shipping requirements. And I have to give special thanks to WooThemes: they have a glut of shipping modules available, and were more than happy to point us in the right direction when their modules didn’t perform the tasks we needed them to.

The team at St. Jean’s did an incredible job of capturing compelling product shots, images by pro photographer Lance Sullivan at Concept Photography really helped the site stand out. The language provided by in-house wordsmith Matt Carter was the perfect complement to awesome visuals.


Creating the stores for both Canada and the US was an exciting challenge that I hadn’t anticipated, but was really looking forward to. Because the customer’s location would affect their shipping choices and rates, we needed to do more than just provide a custom storefront and present the client with a choice, we’d need to detect where the client was coming from and direct them to the appropriate site automatically. We’d also need rules that could handle whatever showed up in Google’s SERPs.

Using mod_geoIP along with a series of clever redirects to handle wayward traffic, we set up a system that would direct Canadian and international users to, and funnel US visitors into In a case where a Canadian landed on the US website (or vise versa), we put some rewrite rules in place to bring them to the ‘right’ home. With help from the fine folks at Hosting Nation, and some nudges in the right direction at Stack Overflow and WebmasterWorld, we set up the rules, tested them extensively with WonderProxy in major worldwide cities, and unleashed the site on the world.

Our crowning achievement for the site was definitely the smart shipping. Shipping rules would execute differently, depending on where the order came from, and which product they ordered. Automating the process required intelligent scripts that could determine the client’s location down to the specific State or Province, could customize options based on whether the product was dried or frozen, and do it all in a variety of scenarios without slowing anything down.

Key features at a glance:

  • Smart shipping to everywhere in North America.
  • Custom storefronts with server-side detection for US and Canadian visitors.
  • Imported users and products from the old storefront.
  • Responsive, clean design that performs well on all devices and browsers.
  • Fast turnaround, built on time and on-budget.
  • In-depth integration with MailChimp.

Want to see more? Check them out in real-time at, or share your e-com trials and successes below!

Story written by Sean Enns


Be the first to leave a comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *