2019 Multi-Source Report: What Canadian Online Shoppers Want

It’s been 20 years since the first Canadian eCommerce transactions, but it has only been in the past five years or so that Canadian consumers and businesses have really embraced it. As their online shopping increased, so did their demands. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to meet those demands when we know what they are. This report gathers statistical information regarding the desires of Canadian digital consumers and identifies Canadian online shopping trends, so businesses can better serve them and ultimately corner a larger share of the Canadian market.

The good news is, Canadian shoppers would rather keep their money in Canada, according to CIRA, which found upwards of 62% of Canadians would rather shop here than in the US. A Mindshare Canada study had similar results, with 61% agreeing it’s important or very important to purchase from a Canadian brand, and 63% agreed it’s important to buy from a Canadian retailer.  A Canada Post 2019 eCommerce Benchmark Report found Canadians plan to increase their purchases from Canadian online retailers in the coming year.

“In 2016, the average Canadian basket spend was $106; two years later that jumped to $175, an increase of 65 per cent. And about one third of all respondent – and 43 per cent of HYPER shoppers alone – indicated they plan to buy even more online in the coming year,” states the Canada Post report.

Unfortunately, eCommerce in this country still has a long way to go by comparison to other countries. That has left shoppers with no choice but to shop beyond our borders for items they can’t find online here.

The bad news is, the cost of shipping continues to interfere with our ability to compete on a global level. That will only change when we pressure the Government into calling Canada Post on its mandate to provide affordable shipping to Canadians. At this point, we don’t have even the most basic options, such as flat-rate boxes or business discounts that amount to more than a few cents per shipment (much of which is often offset by that phantom “fuel charge” they tack on).

Profile: The Online Shopping Canadian

Surprisingly, online shopping hasn’t been the answer for rural Canada that experts predicted it would be. The lack of selection would drive a larger number of online purchases, but there are more challenges for fulfillment, delivery and even internet access/speed. The Canada Post survey found 45% of online shoppers are in urban locations, 36% in suburban and only 19% live in rural locations.

90% of Canadian online shoppers own a smartphone and almost 60% have used it to buy something online, according to eTail Canada’s 2019 Director’s Report.

32% of those with a voice-activated device (smartphone, speaker or smartwatch) have used it to shop online.

Gender is almost split down the middle, with 48% of men and 52% of women being online shoppers.

78.4% of Canadians say they shop more online than they did three years ago and 22.9% say they purchase about the same amount online as they did three years ago, according to the eTail report.

67% of Canadian consumers hold memberships to online marketplaces, such as Amazon or Alibaba (up from 59%), according to a Radial survey. This demonstrates a preference for a large variety of products, member perks and price comparisons among all age groups.

It comes as no surprise that convenience is one of the top reasons we shop online. Mindshare Canada found that 44% of Canadians shop online because convenience is extremely important.

It has become vital to offer a reasonable choice of payment methods when selling online. Statista found that most Canadians prefer to pay by credit card online (61%) and 21% prefer to use PayPal. Not accepting PayPal is a deal breaker for some, as they gain awareness of the importance of protecting payment information.

According to PwC’s Experience Is Everything study, 80% of Canadians agree that they’ll want to interact with a real person more as technology improves.

The Canadian Internet Registry Authority’s (CIRA) latest report says Canadians shop for the following items online:

  • Clothing 42%
  • Flights or travel packages 40%
  • Books 34%
  • Show or game tickets 33%
  • Electronics 32%
  • Household goods 29%
  • Government Services 26%
  • Games or apps for a computer or mobile device 24%
  • Music 23%
  • Movies, video or TV 22%

The Canada Post 2019 eCommerce Benchmark Report found Canadians are purchasing online in a broader range of categories (an average of 4.8).  The most popular category is Computers/Electronics, followed by Women’s Apparel and Books.

2019 Canadian eCommerce Benchmark Report - Purchasing Categories

A Metapack survey found 82% of Canadians purchased goods online from a luxury brand in the past year.

What is Canada’s Digital Economy Worth?

According to the most recent report from Statistics Canada, almost 84% of Canadian Internet users bought goods or services online in 2018, spending $57.4 billion.

eCommerce sales in Canada are expected to reach 49.7 billion Canadian dollars in 2019, says the eTail report. Retail eCommerce revenue of physical goods in Canada is projected to grow to 26.11 billion US dollars in 2019.

Total retail eCommerce sales in Canada are expected to grow 10.6% to $69.55 billion Canadian dollars in 2019, according to eMarketer. That number includes all products or services ordered online, excluding travel and event tickets.

2019 online sales are expected to be 9% of total retail sales in this country, according to Internet Retailer.

Retail Insights’ Global Ecommerce Solutions Market states that Canada’s online business income brought in through eCommerce solutions (such as Canada’s Shopify) totaled $21 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $32 billion by 2025.

The Online Shopping Experience in Canada

“Retailers that are not offering omni-channel shopping and frictionless transactions will increasingly lose market share,” the 2019 Blended Commerce Imperative whitepaper by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) states.  “Consumers want speed, selection, service, experience, and price—well…they want it all.”

  • 47% will definitely recommend a retailer to friends & colleagues, which jumps to 59% if they didn’t experience any problems.
  • 36% of Canadian online shoppers want more product details and better pictures.
  • 23% want to know if the item is in-stock before they place their online order.
  • 21% want better website navigation so it’s easier to find the items they want.

Interestingly, the number of Canadian consumers who research online or in-store before making a purchase is almost equal. Previously, offline stores were concerned about shoppers coming into stores to view products, which they would then purchase online. Now, 61% of shoppers did at least one online activity prior to an in-store purchase (price comparison, browsing website and online flyers). 65% of shoppers did at least one offline activity prior to purchasing online (browsing in-store, price comparison, asking friends & family for recommendations).

As the online shopping experience broadens for Canadians, our expectations and demands are growing. 55% of Canadian shoppers experienced a problem when purchasing a product online, compared to 31% in-store.

The top complaints of purchasing online are:

  1. Being forced to log in or sign up in order to complete their purchase (26%)
  2. Online price different from in-store price (19%)
  3. Unable to order online and pick up in-store (17%)
  4. A coupon or gift certificate/card could not be used online (16%)
  5. Item out of stock (16%)
  6. Slow website (15%)
  7. Desired product not available online (15%)
  8. No help was available to assist with purchase (14%)
  9. Website was hard to navigate (13%)
  10. Unable to add items to cart (12%)

After the Order Was Placed

35% of Canadian shoppers experienced a post-purchase issue, says the RCC survey, compared to 14% in-store.

The top post-purchase complaints are:

  1. Purchase took longer than expected to be delivered (17%)
  2. No order tracking available (16%)
  3. Refunds for returns took too long to process (12%)
  4. Shipping returned items was inconvenient (12%)
  5. Loyalty points weren’t received (12%)
  6. Confusing return policy (12%)
  7. Had to pay return postage (12%)
  8. Couldn’t get answers to questions (12%)
  9. Items damaged (11%)

33% of Canadians agreed that shipping times could reasonably vary based on what product is being shipped, says a Radial survey. 19% of Canadians expect orders to arrive in two days or less. 25.5% of Canadians are willing to pay up to $10 for shipping, and 53.2% expect free shipping.

A Metapack survey looked into the delivery preferences of Canadians and how delivery options influence sales conversions.

  • 72% of shoppers from Canada indicated they would like to have a loyalty program available from their favourite merchants. 50% said they’d choose a merchant offering a services-based loyalty program over one that doesn’t.
  • 68% of Canadians say free shipping plays a major role when deciding where to shop online, but 69% will pay for faster delivery.
  • 55% of Canadian shoppers abandoned shopping carts with online retailers because free delivery was not available.
  • 68% are concerned about the environmental impact of delivery.
  • 45% of Canadian online shoppers feel it’s important to have a choice of delivery options.
  • 21% of us have arranged for online purchases to be delivered to their place of work.
  • 40% of Canadians would like the option to change their delivery method after ordering.
  • 40% prefer local pickup of orders.
  • 80% of Canadians shopping online outside of Canada check to see if additional charges will be applied to the product or shipping cost.

The Metapack survey also found that 71% of Canadian consumers admit that the convenience of try-before-you-buy represents a big draw for them.  Forty percent of Canadians check the online store’s return policy before deciding whether to buy or not.

50.9% of Canadians purchased clothing and accessories less often online in anticipation of returns, concludes the Radial report. 32.7% of Canadians also refrain from buying jewelry online for the same reason. Conversely, Canadian online shoppers are relatively unconcerned about returns when buying sporting goods, outdoor equipment and health & beauty items.

49.3% of Canadians will actually refrain from purchasing goods from an online retailer that does not offer free returns. Using pre-paid return labels and packaging is the favoured method for sending back goods for 39.4% of Canadians. 20.7% prefer to return their items to a store, and 37.2% of Canadians said they are less likely to purchase from a merchant that has no local physical store for returning items.

“The key to retaining brand loyalty and creating a positive shopping experience is to make the returns process as easy as possible,” states the Radial report, Cracking the Code: What Online Shoppers Value Most.  “However, many retailers have yet to optimize this aspect. As a result they lose credibility and miss out on sizable chunks of revenue.”

The Canada Post 2019 eCommerce Benchmark Report found delivery information to be of utmost importance to Canadians at the point of checkout. Failing to provide that information resulted in abandoned carts and a reluctance to shop with the retailer in the future.

2019 Canadian eCommerce Benchmark Report - Delivery

Canadians are a Moving Target

The RCC whitepaper sums it up nicely.

“Never take your eyes off the consumer and never assume you know what they want unless you have definitive proof. Retail continues to change – it’s more interesting, entertaining and innovative every year.”

If you’re looking for an edge in the competitive world of eCommerce, focusing on the customer experience can provide it. The more you know about what online Canadian shoppers want, the better you’ll be able to serve them. Nothing beats a superior customer experience for repeat sales, referrals and word-of-mouth advertising.

We’ll continuously update this post throughout 2019, as more data becomes available.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to be notified of updates.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Online Shopping in Canada is “Surging”
Canadians Are Crazy About Online Shopping (Infographic)
Your Unique Selling Proposition for Online Business and eCommerce

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One Response to "2019 Multi-Source Report: What Canadian Online Shoppers Want"

  1. Erwin Sword  April 11, 2019

    Almost $50 billion dollars???? I’ll take a piece of THAT please! Just goes to show that demand isn’t a problem of online shopping in Canada, it’s only a matter of giving Canadians what they want. Yeah I know….ONLY! But at least it can be done!


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