Canada in the World View of eCommerce (Statistics) ©

Nielsen’s new data from their survey, Global Connected Commerce 2016, covers the evolving online ecosystem, online shopping behaviour, and the drivers and barriers for online shopping success.  It offers insight into the global market that has been opened to us by the Internet, while also providing a snapshot of online Canadian consumers.

Canada is tied with Australia for the largest Internet penetration in the World, at an astounding 93%. With all of that opportunity for reaching Canadians online, it is a sad fact that Canada continues to lag behind in eCommerce. Business barriers, like high Internet access costs for substandard service and insanely high shipping rates, continue to paralyze small businesses in this country. The threat to our economy is alarming when you consider that these small businesses employ more than 98% of Canadians. If they disappear because they haven’t adapted to the demand for online and omni-channel shopping options, we’re in big trouble.

We’re already losing customers to the US and beyond. 62% of Canadians purchased from an overseas retailer in the past six months, compared to 29% of American shoppers. Our low loonie has slowed that down to some extent, which makes this the perfect time to grab a larger portion of the Canadian market. To do that, we must increase our online retail functionality and focus on engagement.  Pushy selling techniques leave online consumers cold.

“In an increasingly complex retail environment, engagement is the emerging skill to master,” said Patrick Dodd, president, Nielsen global retailer vertical. “Retailers must move from a linear marketing approach to a value exchange model in which customers receive a tangible, personally relevant benefit for their time and attention. This becomes even more critical as location-based services become more prevalent. Consumers will be quick to distinguish marketing messages that are simply trying to sell from tools that actually help their shopping efforts, such as advanced order placement or mobile price-matching features. Consequently, having the right assets and insights is necessary to fuel context-aware engagement.”

Offline businesses in Canada often view the Internet as competition, rather than the valuable tool it can be. These statistics demonstrate that, sure, shoppers look offline and buy online. However, just as often they research online and buy offline. Shopping is no longer a “this or that” scenario, but rather a hybridized version of both.

Global Online Shopping Activities for Selected Categories

Information gathering and deal seeking are primary online shopping activities. 47% of Canadians check store flyers online to make sure they get the best deal. Catering to online deal seekers could give you a serious competitive advantage, especially if you do it across all channels (online flyers, eCommerce, social media, and omni-channel strategies).

Travel Products or Services

  • Looked up product info 63%
  • Checked or compared prices 52%
  • Searched for deals, promotions or coupons 46%
  • Clicked on an eMail ad to find out more 10%
  • Subscribed to mailing list 8%
  • Interacted with a product or store on social media 4%

Canada in the World View of Online Shopping - StatisticsBeauty and Personal Care Products

  • Looked up product info 54%
  • Checked or compared prices 44%
  • Searched for deals, promotions or coupons 35%
  • Clicked on an eMail ad to find out more 9%
  • Subscribed to mailing list 7%
  • Interacted with a product or store on social media 7%

Consumer Electronics

  • Looked up product info 60%
  • Checked or compared prices 52%
  • Searched for deals, promotions or coupons 34%
  • Clicked on an eMail ad to find out more 7%
  • Subscribed to mailing list 5%
  • Interacted with a product or store on social media 4%

Fresh Groceries

  • Looked up product info 38%
  • Checked or compared prices 39%
  • Searched for deals, promotions or coupons 30%
  • Clicked on an eMail ad to find out more 10%
  • Subscribed to mailing list 7%
  • Interacted with a product or store on social media 8%

Payment methods

Globally, the most popular payment method is by credit card (53%), digital payment services like PayPal (43%) and debit card (39%). 81% of Canadians prefer to use a credit card when shopping online, followed by digital payment services at 41%. Interestingly, 83% of online respondents in India say COD is their preferred method of payment for eCommerce purchases, a preference that is reflected in several other developing markets.

Durable Goods Vs Consumables

Durable goods are bought more often online than consumables. Only two consumable categories made the top 10, beauty/personal care and meal delivery.

  1. Fashion 55%
  2. Books, music and stationery 50%
  3. Travel products or services 49%
  4. Event tickets 43%
  5. IT & mobile 40%
  6. Consumer electronics 37%
  7. Beauty and personal care 35%
  8. Video game related products 30%
  9. Furniture, decor and tools 23%
  10. Restaurant / meal delivery 21%

The good news about consumables with a short shelf life is that local Canadian businesses have an edge. Unfortunately, it’s the small, local businesses that are lagging behind in joining the eCommerce revolution in this country.

You can tip the scales for consumable and durable products if you pay attention to key drivers of online shopping. A focus on convenience and unique products pays off in the online grocery sector, for example. Even on a global scale, 49% of respondents who shop for groceries online, do so to get their hands on unique products that they can’t find locally. We often advocate for unique products to give any Canadian business an edge, and it works especially well within our borders due to a high number of remote areas in Canada.

75% of Canadians participating in this survey, say the biggest barrier to shopping for consumables online is the inability to inspect products. This concern can be addressed in part with testimonials, guarantees, quality images, and product details that include where the product came from (locally grown, etc) and the expiration date. The data indicated similar reasoning for not purchasing durable products online, with the exception of price ranking higher for some categories, such as electronics and books.

What Are You Waiting For?

It is no longer an option to do business online for most Canadian businesses, it’s a necessity.  Not only must we be present, we also have to embrace every opportunity to engage consumers.  The low Canadian dollar not only gives you an edge in this country, but also opens up international doors.  There has never been a better time to do business online.  If barriers like high shipping costs are getting in the way, take it to your MLA and the media.  We need to inspire change to build a solid, modern economy.

For further information about bringing your Canadian business to online shoppers, please check out the following articles:

Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business
Help for the 54% of Canadian Small Businesses Without a Website (Statistics)
10 Tips for Taking Product Photos That Sell Online
Canadian Stores Can Grab Global Online Shoppers (Statistics)
Test eCommerce Waters with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
Canadian Omni-Channel Panel Shares Insights
Top Online Business and Marketing Books of 2015

Comment on Canadians Internet BusinessDo these statistics reflect your experience with eCommerce in Canada? Please share your insights or questions in the comments below.

Nielsen Global Connected Commerce 2016


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

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, 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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Great & useful stats, thanks


Canadians are ready to shop online but it’s too hard to find online businesses to buy from here. The closest to Canadian is so they get all the business. It’s so sad.

pankaj karnwal

nice information thanks for sharing with us.