large cityscape and two people on bench

Canada: 60% purchase online domestically and cross-border. Land of opportunity for UK brands and etailers?

With a population of over 35 million, Canada is one of the world’s wealthiest countries.  E-commerce in Canada has almost doubled since 2013, and retail sales from e-commerce are expected to hit £22.4 billion by 2021. There is a definite retail channel shift as demonstrated by the fact that 39% of online shoppers spend half or more of their total budget online rather than in-store. In 2015, 95% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 made a purchase online, with 84% of all Canadians making an online purchase at least once a  year.

Canadians are much more keen than their US neighbours to buy online cross-border with 60% saying that they purchase ‘domestically and cross-border’ compared to just 20% in the US and 33% in the UK.  This is reflected in the amount of trust they have in foreign websites which is much greater that Americans. When asked what attracts them to buying online from non-Canadian e-commerce sites responses were split between those purchasing from the US and Europe where the main reason was to buy products not available locally and the Asia Pacific when low prices were key.

How do individuals access the web? As of 2016, the average Canadian will spend 61 minutes a day on their desktops and 83 minutes on their mobile phone. When it comes to shopping online, most Canadians prefer to use desktop devices as opposed to smartphones and tables  mirroring the picture in the US,, but that is changing quickly.

Social media usage moderate but increasing

Canada doesn’t break any social media records, but it is an area worth watching for marketers. In an average day, a Canadian will likely spend around 106 minutes of their day using social networks (compared to the global average of over 180 minutes).  Facebook

Where countries such as Thailand see 51% of online shoppers having purchased directly via a social media channel only 6% of Canadians have done so, suggesting that this is a channel which has some way to go in establishing itself as a viable route to market.

Attracting overseas retailers is a priority for Canada’s government

Canada is doing everything it can to attract international retailers. Once CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) comes into force, overseas retailers will have preferential access to both NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the EU – an excellent opportunity for growth.

Credit cards and delivery to store dominate

Over 80% of Canada’s 36m population live in urban or suburban areas near the southern border with the United States. The growth in online purchasing is being lead by the cities of London, Vancouver and Victoria. 75% of consumers retrieved their purchases by collecting from the store followed by 22% who received an international delivery and 14% a domestic delivery.

Credit cards still dominate payment preferences for Canadians with over 59% of people saying they prefer to  use a credit card.. However, digital wallets like PayPal are also increasingly popular (particularly among younger respondents), with 20% preferring to use the virtual payment platform when shopping online.

Adapting to e-commerce in Canada

Over half of Canadians say the main reason they shop online is to find lower prices and better deals that they can’t find on the high street.  Clothing and books dominate sales, and they exhibit many of the same buying patterns and consumer habits as our EU neighbours.  Relations between Canada and the UK have always been good, and UK brands are generally perceived well. It’s also worth noting that for Canadians, the UK is one of the most popular tourist destinations – so there’s certainly an appetite for ‘Britishness’ there.

“Despite the extensive geography and low population, Canadians enjoy many of the e-commerce benefits of Americans. However, e-commerce innovations come slowly to Canada, so we must be patient for change. When large American cities get same day online delivery, Canadians must wait several years until it comes to Canada. Similarly, when new payment options become available to Americans, Canadians must wait for retailers to support it. Despite these challenges, Canadians buy a great deal online.” Quinn, Oban Local In-Market Expert (LIME), Canada

Due to their incredibly large country, Canadians have learned to be very mindful of shipping costs. However, brands like ASOS and Boohoo are alleviating these concerns by offering free shipping above a certain order value or a standard flat rate to all customers.

Three things to consider when entering the Canadian market:

  • Logistics & deliveries – Canada’s population is highly urbanised with in-store retrieval favoured for deliveries, consider collection options.
  • Be British and proud – Canada has a fondness for Britain which UK brands should use.
  • Desktop dominates – consider a website first approach whilst not neglecting mobile.


 Contact us today to see how we can help your business explore new markets like Canada.

Skip to content