Canada flag Canada: Buying and Selling

E-commerce in Canada


Internet access
With an 88.5% internet penetration rate, Canada continues to be among the most connected countries in the world. According to comScore, Canadians spend more hours online than anyone else in the world (36.7 per month), seeking out an average of 3,238 unique web pages per month. The majority of Canadians still use a desktop or laptop computer to access the Internet (67%), but those between 18 and 34 are less likely to do so (54%) and often prefer to connect through a smartphone (41%). Data by comScore confirms that the use of smartphones in Canada continues to grow, with a penetration rate of 81% in 2017 (+6% over the previous year). Moreover, 9% of Canadians report having 10 or more Internet-connected devices in their household. Email continues to be the number one online activity for Canadians, with 92% citing it as a frequent reason for accessing the web. Other popular internet activities include banking (68%), social media (59%) and reading the news or current events (55%). The most popular web search engines in Canada are Google (67.5%), Yahoo (21%) and Bing (9.6%).
E-commerce market
For the past decade, e-commerce sales have grown at a far higher rate than traditional retail sales. Total Canadian e-Commerce revenue in 2017 reached US$ 20.16 billion, and is expected to grow to US$ 28.7 billion by 2021. Major online retailers in Canada include Walmart, Amazon, Dell, Sears, Staples, Costco and Best Buy. Although Canadians prefer to support Canadian businesses, a significant proportion of the nation’s e-Commerce spending goes to non-Canadian websites: 67% of online purchases Canadians made in 2016 were from other countries. One-third of the total spending is in the United States and the rest in Asia (primarily China) and Europe.  Canadians cite lower prices and better selection as principal reasons for shopping outside the country. Regarding the B2B e-Commerce market, virtually all Canadian small business owners report making online purchases.
Social media
In 2017, there were approximately 22.7 million social network users in Canada. Advertising expenditures on social media were estimated to have reached nearly CA$ 835 million by the end of 2017. Given the increasing access to and dominant presence of younger consumers on social media sites, digital ads have more consistently targeted social media rather than the traditional online news and information portals or information sources: currently, an estimate 36% of digital ads are placed on social media, 18% on entertainment sites, and 12% on portals. The remaining ads are placed on news and information sites and directories, among others. As of the third quarter of 2017, the most popular social networks were YouTube and Facebook, with a 74% penetration rate (in 2016 the number of Facebook users in Canada was calculated at 18.2 million). YouTube had about 16.8 million users, followed by Facebook Messenger (11.3 million), Instagram and Twitter (7.7 and 7 million respectively). Among the general population, most time spent accessing different social platforms was via smartphones, followed by desktops and tablets. Social media usage among women is growing steadily across all networks, and growth among Canadian men is slower by comparison. Women prefer using visual social networks more, with Instagram and Pinterest showing the biggest growth. LinkedIn growth among Canadian males is almost double the usage of women.

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Latest Update: June 2024

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