eMarketer: Canada E-Commerce Growing Quickly

But Web shopping still a relative rarity.

APRIL 30, 2008 – Online sales increased at a double-digit pace for the sixth consecutive year in 2007, according to Statistics Canada. Total private and public sector Internet sales hit an estimated C$62.7 billion ($58.6 billion), up 26% from 2006.

Despite the continued strong growth, e-commerce still represents a relatively small fraction of total economic activity, at about 2% of total operating revenue.

Statistics Canada said that only about 8% of Canadian private sector companies sell goods and services online.

In the private sector, business-to-business sales accounted for 62% of online sales in 2007, down from 68% in 2006. The proportion of online business-to-consumer sales climbed from 32% to 38%.

B2C e-commerce sales therefore reached C$23.8 billion ($22.2 billion), or 38% of C$62.7 billion. That is almost 50% higher than eMarketer’s November 2007 estimate. eMarketer counts online travel, tickets and digital downloads as services, not products, and thus excludes them from its estimate.

It is estimated that customers outside Canada generated almost one out of every five dollars (19%) in online sales in the private sector, similar to the last two years.

While Canadian consumers are comfortable purchasing travel, media products, and computer hardware and software online, they tend to shy away from high-touch categories such as apparel and home furnishings. Instead, they head to one of their excellent shopping malls. A common explanation for this tendency is that, unlike Americans, Canadians lack a catalog tradition and have not been conditioned to shop remotely.

“Retailers can take steps to help consumers overcome their resistance to purchasing high-touch products online,” said Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer. “Product-enhancement tools are important in helping shoppers visualize items and, in the case of apparel, see how they might fit.”

Mr. Grau also said that user ratings and reviews and alternative payment options could help increase confidence in online purchasing.

Learn more about how changes in the US exchange rate have affected Canadian e-commerce. Read eMarketer’s Canada B2C E-Commerce: The Barriers Melt report.

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