2020 Multi-Source Report: The Canadian Online Shopper

Understanding the Canadian online shopper is critical in attracting new customers and encouraging repeat purchases through customer loyalty. Canadian businesses rely heavily on customer loyalty because our population is small, but we also enjoy an advantage in how spread out and rural the population is. When there’s less available locally, shoppers are more likely to purchase online.

Emarketer predicts retail eCommerce sales will be more than $75 billion dollars in 2020. The more you know about the habits of eCommerce enthusiasts in this country, the better you’ll be able to serve them. Providing a superior customer experience gives you a competitive advantage, resulting in repeat sales, referrals and word-of-mouth advertising.

2020 Report: The Canadian Online Shopper

These 2020 statistics are brought together from multiple data sources and surveys. We’ll update this report with new data as it arrives throughout 2020.

Canadian Online Shopper Demographics

37% are 53-72 years old
28% are 24-37 years of age
25% are 38-52 years old
5% are 18-23
5% are over the age of 73
The average annual household income is $102,306
42% are couples who don’t have children
23% are couples with children
20% live alone
30% have dependent children in their household
49% are male
51% are female
41% live in urban locations
38% live in the suburbs
21% live in rural Canada

How often do Canadians purchase online?

  • 60% of online purchase in Canada were made by only 18% of shoppers.
  • 37% make occasional online purchase (2-6/year)
  • 24% purchase frequently (7-12/year)
  • 15% of Canadians make 13-24 purchases online each year.
  • 10% make 25-40 purchases online
  • 8% make over 41 puchases online
  • 32% of Canadians say they’ll buy more online in the coming year.

The Most Popular Ecommerce Categories in Canada

According to a Canada Post survey, following are the eCommerce categories Canadians are purchasing in.

62% Apparel
42% Women’s Clothing
32% Men’s Clothing
16% Children’s Clothing
41% Computers & Electronics
31% Books
30% Footwear
29% Beauty Products
23% Home & Garden
22% Health Products
20% Office Supplies
17% Toys
17% Decor
17% Automotive
16% Jewellery
16% Sporting Goods
15% Perishable Groceries
15% Small Appliances
13% CD’s, Records and Videos
11% Collectibles
11% Furniture
11% Pet Supplies & Food
10% Infant Products
9% Games & Software
9% Non-Perishable Groceries
7% Cannabis
4% Large Appliances
3% Vaping Products

Canadians are now buying within Canada more than outside this country, which may come as a surprise to many people. Canadian shoppers make 94% of their online purchases in Canada, 75 percent outside of Canada and 64 percent in the United States. Forty percent intend to shop within Canada even more in the coming year.

Sales Channels

The evolution of online shopping in Canada has resulted in more diversity in sales channels. Consumers are buying from online marketplaces, social media, direct from the manufacturer or wholesaler, and subscriptions.

The reasons Canadians buy direct from the manufacturer are:

Manufacturer’s Promotion 34%
Lower Price 28%
Better Selection 28%
Retail Availability 27%

Buying on Social Media Networks in Canada

  • 55% of online merchants are selling selling products on social media platforms.
  • 46% of online shoppers have clicked through to a retailer website after seeing an advertisement on social media.
  • 95% of social shoppers prefer Facebook
  • 69% prefer Instagram
  • 14% like Twitter
  • 11% prefer Pinterest
  • 3% shop via Snapchat

Online Marketplaces

Seventy-five percent of Canadian online shoppers purchase through an online marketplace, while forty-two percent of merchants sell on them.

72% purchase through Amazon.ca
9% shop on eBay
7% buy through the Walmart Canada marketplace
6% purchase via Best Buy Canada
3% shop on Etsy Canada
2% buy through Newegg Canada

As of Q3 2019, 53 percent of purchases via Amazon were through third-party sellers. On Amazon Prime Day 2019, 33 percent of sales were from marketplace sellers. Close to half of those sellers generate 81-100 percent of their revenue on the Amazon marketplace. Small businesses with less than five employees generate 73 percent of their revenue on Amazon.


Subscriptions are a newer eCommerce model that involves recurring deliveries. Subscription boxes are growing in popularity here in the Great White North. Eleven percent of Canadians have ordered an average of two subscription boxes in the past year. Twenty-three percent have over 41 subscriptions! Predictably, the likelyhood of Canadians signing up for a subscription increases with the frequency of online purchases they make overall.

Subscription Boxes:

28% Meal Kits
25% Food/Beverage
22% Beauty
13% Health & Wellness
12% Clothing
10% Books
7% Hobbies
7% Lifestyle
7% Pet
6% Children
5% Tech/Games
3% Jewellery

Automatic Recurring Deliveries:

32% Beauty Products
28% Non-Perishable Groceries
27% Health
17% Baby Products
15% Office Supplies
14% Pet Supplies
13% Perishable Groceries
3% Cannabis

Canadian businesses are using subscriptions to increase leads & sales, add a more predictable revenue model, increase engagement, and for upselling.

How Canadians Choose You

A Canada Post survey identified the following reasons Canadians decide to purchase from an online retailer:

Free Shipping 80%

  • 86% will shop more often if offered free shipping.
  • 67% abandon their cart if the store doesn’t offer free shipping.

Meets Delivery Expectations 52%

  • 52% say realistic, clear delivery details at the point of purchase influences their decision to buy.
  • 37% will abandon their cart if the site isn’t clear on when they can expect delivery and related information.

Return Policy 50%

  • 63% of online shoppers will abandon their cart if they’re concerned about return policies.
  • 79% will stop shopping from a retailer if they have a negative return experience.

Fast Shipping 46%

  • 75% increase purchase frequency if they’re offered faster shipping.
  • 54% will abandon their cart or avoid purchasing again if they wait too long.
  • 39% will avoid purchasing again if the order processing takes too long.
  • Almost half of online shoppers expect delivery in 2-3 days if they paid for shipping.
  • Almost half of online shoppers expect delivery within 5-7 days if shipping was free.

Delivery Experience 44%

  • 67% shop more often with an online retailer if there are flexible delivery options available (delivery points, pick up in store, etc.)

Based in Canada 40%

  • 61% prefer to purchase from a Canadian business.
  • 55% prefer to buy items made in Canada.
  • 52% prefer to shop online from Canadian retailers.

Loyalty Program 37%

  • 71% prefer to shop from retailers that offer tailored or personalized rewards and discounts.

Environmental Values and Initiatives 14%

  • 69% get upset about excessive packaging and packing materials.
  • 53% shop more often from companies that try to reduce packing materials.
  • 41% prefer to shop with retailers that support an environmental cause.
  • 66% prefer to have all purchases in one shipment to reduce packaging and emissions.

Voice Shopping Online

Voice technology use in Canada was only a blip on the radar, not too long ago. In just the past year, there has been a 42 percent increase in the use of voice tech like Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Home, Assistant & Voice Search. According to a Mindshare study released in January, 2020, a whopping 88% of English and French Canadians used voice tech at least once each week. French Canadians prefer Google and English Canadians favour Siri, by a slim margin.

The top 5 voice services in Canada are:

  1. Apple Siri
  2. Google Home
  3. Google Assistant
  4. Amazon Alexa
  5. Amazon Echo

The reason all of this is important, is because optimizing your website for voice search is different than traditional optimization. From search engine optimization to functional online shopping experiences, voice changes the playing field. A clear understanding of why we like to use voice functionality will help you determine how you can optimize it for your business.

Purchasing with voice tech has been slow to grow. However, tasks related to shopping are some of the top inquiries among Canadians who use voice devices for shopping and business-related tasks. Notably, French Canadians use voice tech less overall, but they’re more active in using the technology for shopping or business-related tasks.

Use of Voice Assistants in Canada 2020

Marketing to Canadians

As several outside retailers have learned the hard way, the Canadian market isn’t like any other country.

How do Canadians Find New Online Retailers?

  • 58% search for the item they’re looking for, often on Google or Amazon
  • 58% through email advertising
  • 46% visit a new retailer if they see an ad on social media
  • 35% through word-of-mouth
  • 32% on social media
  • 30% search for a specific store
  • 12% in an offline store
  • 12% through mailed advertising

Ecommerce Innovation in Canada

Online shopping is in a perpetual state of evolution and innovation is key to providing the kind of eCommerce experience Canadians crave. Big or small, businesses in this country are expanding and innovating.

A 2020 report from eTail Canada shares innovation strategies from major online retailers:

Lowe’s is a big company, but it still faces eCommerce challenges similar to small businesses. Their slow adoption of online sales illustrates that point, but they’ve taken giant strides to rectify that in recent years.

“We didn’t make any bones about the fact that this was a company that had great potential but that had underinvested in supply chain, IT and also leadership development,” said Marvin Ellison, President & CEO. “It’s not difficult to grow dotcom sales; it’s difficult to do it correctly and make money.”

Best Buy Canada is focusing on stronger relationships with customers through digital technology.

“Customers are looking for brands which can provide a more personal and human experience than Jeff Bezos’s ecommerce behemoth.”

Walmart Canada is completely overhauling eCommerce distribution.

“We’ve been modernizing and innovating to ensure products can get to our customers in the quickest and most efficient way possible, without compromising on our everyday low prices and the quality customers expect,” said Alexis Lanternier, Executive Vice President of Ecommerce at Walmart Canada.

Loblaw has expanded its click and collect offering from 200 stores to more than 700, but their marketplace launch is dominating their innovation strategy.

“Loblaw’s marketplace will be curated to include products and brands that the company has not previously stocked in an effort to boost, not just the diversity of items available through its brand, but also to provide opportunities to third party sellers, and help the retailer compete with Amazon for a share of the Canadian market.”

Stay With Us

We’ll continuously update this post throughout 2020, as more data becomes available. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of updates.

The 2020 Canadian E-Commerce Report
Mindshare Voice in Canada Study 2020
eTail Canada

 You may also be interested in reading:

Digital Marketing: Canadians Are Waiting for You Online (Infographic)

Survey Finds Canadian Small Businesses Optimistic in Spite of Challenges

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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon is an internet entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in a wide range of online business models, backed by a formal business education and enhanced by training and mentorship. She has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available from all major ebook retailers.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadianDigitalMedia.com, CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net, and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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