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Canadian Online Business Statistics

Gary Stevens —

Last updated:

Consumers in Canada have embraced e-commerce wholeheartedly.

This includes people who love to shop online, those who have set up small businesses on the Internet, and major corporations. In short, it’s easy for people to find, select, and purchase whatever they need from online suppliers.

But how much do you know about e-commerce in Canada? Is there a significant increase from year to year? How does it compare to consumers and businesses who continue to shop at and operate brick and mortar locations? If you’re curious about the state of e-commerce in Canada, you’re in the right place.

A Greater Percentage of Canadian Residents are Shopping Online

As in many other nations, shopping online in Canada continues to increase from year to year. That is true for business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) transactions. According to data provided by Statistica, wholesale and manufacturing sales conducted online have consistently increased year over year from 2012 through 2017. Combined, these two sectors of e-commerce accounted for $61 billion CAD in 2012. Various sources indicate those same two sectors accounted for revenue in the $85 billion to $95 billion range in 2017.

canadian services purchased online

Warehousing and transportation also has seen consistent growth during the same period. With an average revenue generation of $11 billion in 2012, different organizations report this sector enjoyed around $15 billion of generated revenue in 2017.

Accommodation and food services also deserves some attention. In 2012, this sector accounted for $2 billion in sales. Industry sources indicate that figure was closer to $4 billion for calendar year 2017.

These figures indicate that online sales of all types are increasing at a healthy and consistent rate. This is true between businesses that purchase goods from one another as well as consumers who prefer to shop online rather than visit traditional stores and other shopping venues. Business owners who have not focused on online sales yet are focusing on viable web builders that can help design and launch a user-friendly site.

Online Retailers are Leading the Way

What about online retailers? They too enjoy increasing sales volume from online sales. In 2012, $13 billion was generated via purchases made to online retailers. That figure has almost doubled as we move closer to 2020.

Popular web hosting companies have noticed this trend and some are even offering special rates for retailers who want to launch online stores or enhance what they already have in place.

A Greater Percentage of Canadian Residents are Making Purchases From Canada-Based Companies

While international or borderless shopping remains popular in Canada, there has been a slight shift in terms of preferring to shop with companies based in the nation.

canadian consumer trends

Internet Retailers, which tracks online shopping activity and releases an annual list of the top 100 retailers who do business in Canada, indicates that online sales generated by domestic companies in 2016 amounted to 35.2% of total retail sales. That figure for 2017 increased to 43.9%.

Some US Online Companies are Still Popular With Canadian Residents

retailer chart

While shopping with businesses based in the country is becoming more popular among e-commerce consumers, there are still certain companies based in the United States that enjoy loyal customer bases in most of the provinces. Some of these companies do operate Canadian branches, which may account in part for their continued popularity. The top international retailers who fall into this category include:

In the past, US-based companies like Target, Toys ‘R Us, and Sears enjoyed great popularity among Canadian residents. Owing to troubled overall sales in recent years, they seem to have lost some of their attraction for those who prefer to shop online. It remains to be seen if they will continue to survive in any form in Canada.

There’s a Definite Year-to-Year Increase in Canada-Based Online Companies

How about the number of Canada-based companies with an online presence? Those are also on the upswing.

Canada-based e-retailers

From small businesses that are primarily based online to larger companies that operate retail locations as well as online stores, there was an increase of 42% of Canadian retailers by the end of 2017. That increase is likely to motivate business owners to consider moving from shared to dedicated web hosts who offer enough bandwidth to accommodate their growing customer bases.

Are There Generational Differences in Online Shopping Preferences?

Some people may be surprised at who is behind the increase in e-commerce in Canada. Conventional wisdom would dictate that younger generations would be the driving force. In fact, it’s older generations that seem to be taking to online shopping with more enthusiasm.


Figures released in 2018 indicate that of 18,430 consumers who participated in a survey, consumers who were born between 1966 and 1981 were more likely to make purchases online than any other age group. The survey results indicated that people in what is sometimes called the Generation X group averaged 19 online purchases per year.

Interestingly enough, it’s the generation just before Gen X that also seems to find online shopping attractive. Baby Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1965 were almost even with Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) when it came to making purchases online. While not quite as frequent as Gen X, both these generational groups represented a reasonable amount of online consumers.

A surprise in this survey had to do with consumers born during the closing years of the 20th century and into the new millennium. Unlike their older counterparts, they seemed to demonstrate less affinity with shopping online. In fact, they were just as likely to visit a local shop to make purchases as they were to order something online. There’s speculation on how this generation will impact the future of online e-commerce and if their influence will slow what has been consistent growth over the last decade.

How Are People Shopping Online?


There’s no doubt that online shopping is on the rise and that will likely continue for several years. What is less clear is how people are connecting to their favourite businesses and submitting orders.

Prior to 2010, shopping by using a laptop or desktop computer were the primary approaches. They still seem to be the devices of choice for many shoppers. Reports released during 2018 indicated that 57% to 84% of shoppers in North America prefer doing their online shopping using desktop or laptop computers.

For the same period, 17% preferred to do their shopping using a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet. A total of 27% reported they had no particular preference, with some mentioning that the device of choice depended greatly on where they happened to be when they decided to make a purchase.

Final Thoughts

What will happen in the years ahead? Predictions range from a leveling off of e-commerce while others believe it will adapt and motivate renewed appeal to younger generations. The trend of more people buying from Canadian companies versus international options is also expected to continue.

In the meantime, grab your favourite device, visit the online shop of your choice, and reach for the credit card. And if you happen to be a business owner or planning to become one, now is the time to pick a product or service to sell, take that site live, and start blasting emails to prospective customers.

References and image credits:

  • CBC.ca
  • ThisFish.info
  • DailyHive.com
  • KnowTechie.com