Just the Facts
Online shopping in Canada, 2018

Release date: December 2, 2019

Note to readers

Do you have questions about this data release? You are invited to join our AMA (Ask Me Anything) event on Reddit on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. (ET), to discuss the adoption and use of digital technologies by Canadians and how the proliferation of digital technologies introduces new risks to Canadians who must take steps to protect their online privacy, security, and maintain their wellbeing.*Please note that a Reddit account is required to participate in the discussion.

As digital technologies become more and more prevalent, many Canadians turn to the Internet for shopping.

Recently released data from the Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS) provides a statistical portrait of the online shopping habits of Canadians over the age of 15 living in the provinces.  

More than 8 in 10 Canadians shopped online in 2018

The total spending of Canadian online shoppers reached $57.4 billion in 2018, compared to $18.9 billion in 2012, with nearly 84% of Internet users buying goods or services online. 

Who is shopping online?

Younger Internet users are more likely to make online purchases. In 2018, 95% of Internet users 25 to 34 years of age shopped online, while only 64% of Internet users 65 years of age or older did so (Table 1).

Internet users with a higher income were more likely to make purchases of goods and services online.  A vast majority (94%) of those in the highest income quartile shopped online, whereas 70% of Internet users in the lowest income quartile did the same.


Table 1
Profile of online shoppers
Table summary
This table displays the results of Profile of online shoppers. The information is grouped by Age Groups (appearing as row headers),  % (appearing as column headers).
Age Groups  %
15 to 24 88.1
25 to 34 95.2
35 to 44 92.5
45 to 54 87.3
55 to 64 78.9
65 and over 63.5
Household income quartile Table 1 Note 1 Table 1 Note 2
Quartile 1 Lowest household income 70.2
Quartile 2 81.8
Quartile 3 88.8
Quartile 4 Highest household income 93.5

The 2018 Canadian Internet Use Survey divides goods and services purchased over the Internet into four broad categories: 1) physical goods that were delivered or picked up; 2) digital goods or services; 3) peer-to-peer services; 4) other services ordered online.  On average, Canadian online shoppers spent $2,554 to purchase these goods and services in 2018. 

Types of online purchases: Digital goods and services

About 67% of online shoppers purchased digital goods and services. Shoppers who purchased digital goods and services spent on average $346 on them in 2018 (Table 2).


Table 2
Digital goods and services purchased, 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Digital goods and services purchased. The information is grouped by Types of digital goods or services (appearing as row headers), Online shoppers (%) and Average expenditure ($) (appearing as column headers).
Types of digital goods or services Online shoppers (%) Average expenditure ($)
At least one purchase of digital goods or services 66.6 346
Video downloads or streaming subscriptions 35.4 126
Music downloads or streaming subscriptions 33.9 95
Online gaming, gaming applications, game downloads or in-game purchases 18.3 253
Other applications, software or online subscriptions 17.6 134
E-books, audio books or podcast books 17.1 83
Online data-storage services 16.0 59
Other digital goods or services ordered over the Internet 10.4 304
Digital gift cards purchased online, for online redemption 9.3 137
Online newspapers or magazines 7.3 85
Video or audio podcasts, excluding podcast books 5.0 22
Online gambling 2.1 385

Types of online purchases: Physical goods

Of the broad categories measured by the CIUS, physical goods ordered over the Internet and delivered or picked up (87%) constituted the most frequent type of online purchase among online shoppers. Those who reported buying physical goods spent an average of $1,165 on the goods they purchased (Table 3).


Table 3
Physical goods ordered over the Internet and delivered or picked up, 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Physical goods ordered over the Internet and delivered or picked up. The information is grouped by Types of physical goods (appearing as row headers), Online shoppers (%) and Average expenditure ($)
(appearing as column headers).
Types of physical goods Online shoppers (%) Average expenditureTable 3 Note 1 ($)
At least one purchase of physical goods 86.6 1,165
Clothing, jewellery or accessories 57.6
Books or magazines 29.4
Toys and games 29.2
Consumer electronics 27.2
Housewares 24.6
Non-prescription health or beauty products 18.3
Other physical goods ordered online 17.7
Home improvement or gardening supplies 14.3
Sports equipment 13.1
Food or beverages not from restaurants 12.6
Automotive products 12.3
Gift cards 9.8
Prescription drugs or products 5.0
Non-prescription cannabis 2.9

Types of online purchases: Peer-to-peer services

One quarter of online shoppers (24%) used peer-to-peer ride services and 17% used peer-to-peer accommodation services. Of those who purchased peer-to-peer services, an average of $341 was spent on ride services and an average of $1,101 was spent on accommodation services (Table 4)


Table 4
Peer to peer services, 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Peer to peer services. The information is grouped by Types of peer-to-peer services (appearing as row headers), Online shoppers (%) and Average expenditure ($) (appearing as column headers).
Types of peer-to-peer services Online shoppers (%) Average expenditure ($)
Peer-to-peer ride servicesTable 4 Note 1 23.6 341
Peer-to-peer accommodation servicesTable 4 Note 2 17.1 1,101

Types of online purchases: Other services ordered online

About 75% of online shoppers ordered some other type of service online not included in the categories above, such as travel arrangements or tickets for entertainment events. Those who purchased other services online spent an average of $1,399 online for these other services (Table 5).


Table 5
Other services ordered online, 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Other services ordered online. The information is grouped by Types of services (appearing as row headers), Online shoppers (%) and Average expenditure ($) (appearing as column headers).
Types of services Online shoppers (%) Average expenditureTable 5 Note 1 ($)
At least one purchase of services 74.7 1,399
Travel arrangements 50.3
Tickets for entertainment events 45.6
Food or beverages delivered from restaurants 31.9
Organized sports or fitness 14.6
Photographic services 8.4
Child care registration 7.6
Other services ordered online 5.5

Purchase of physical goods online remains largely domestic

Of those who made online purchases in 2018, 37% said that they ordered goods or services online from businesses specifically because they were Canadian. Among online shoppers who purchased physical goods online, a large majority (86%) chose to purchase from Canadian online merchants (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Origin of merchants, online shoppers of physical goods, 2018

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Percent (appearing as column headers).
Percent
Merchants in Canada 86.1
Merchants in the United States 55.2
Merchants in other countries 31.0
Merchants of unknown country of origin 10.3

Methods of online payment

Different methods of payment were used by online shoppers to pay for the goods and services they ordered over the Internet. Among the most common were credit cards that were previously saved or entered at time of purchase (76%) and online payment services (39%), such as PayPal or Google Checkout. Other methods that online shoppers used to pay for goods or services were electronic bank transfers (22%), rewards points or redemption programs (16%) and a virtual wallet, such as Apple Pay or Masterpass (8%).

Problems encountered after completing an online order

More than half (55%) of online shoppers identified problems after completing an online order (Chart 2).

Chart 2 Problems encountered after completing an online order, 2018

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Encountered a problem after completing an online order (appearing as row headers), Percent (appearing as column headers).
Encountered a problem after completing an online order Percent
At least one problem 54.8
Speed of delivery slower than indicated 37.7
Product was lower quality than expected 23.4
Final cost higher than indicated 14.9
Wrong or damaged goods or services delivered 14.5
Never received product 12.1
Difficulty finding information 11.4
Complaint process provided unsatisfactory results 5.8
Concern for your security or privacy 5.1
Received counterfeit product 1.9
Fraudulent use of personal information 1.4
Other problem 1.2

Reasons for not shopping online

Among the 16% of Canadian Internet users that did not shop online in 2018, about half (47%) said they had no need or weren’t interested in ordering online and 22% identified a concern with security or privacy. Just over one fifth (21%) of those who reported not ordering goods or services online identified a lack of confidence, knowledge, skills or training with ordering online and 21% they wanted the opportunity to see, hold, or try on the product before purchasing it (Table 6).


Table 6
Reasons for not shopping online, 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Reasons for not shopping online. The information is grouped by Reasons (appearing as row headers), % (appearing as column headers).
  Reasons %
No need or no interest 47.0
Security or privacy concerns 22.3
Lack of confidence, knowledge, skills or training 20.7
Wanted the opportunity to see, hold, or try on the product before purchasing 21.3
Other reason 9.9
Concerns about delivery or returns 9.5
Do not have a credit card for online transactions 7.3
Availability 3.8
Internet connection speed is too slow 1.8
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