Canadian consumers continue to love the internet. In fact, they’re spending more time on it than ever before. According to new numbers from Statistics Canada, 83% of Canadians aged 16 and up accessed the internet for personal use in 2012. That’s up from 80% in 2010—the last time the polling agency conducted a survey on internet use and e-commerce.
And they’re shopping online more than ever before. Some 56% of internet users ordered goods or services online in 2012. That’s up from 51% in 2010.
So, who are these shoppers? First, they’re likely to be young: 69% of web-savvy 25- to 34-year-olds made purchases online past year. Second, they’re buying with moderate frequency: the average online shopper made 13 purchases last year and spent approximately $1,450 doing so.
And what do they buy? Much of the purchases were in well-established e-commerce categories such as travel (with 58% of online shoppers purchasing airline tickets or hotel rooms in the past year) and event tickets (with 52% of web shoppers). Apparel (42%), publications (42%), music (35%) and membership or registration fees (35%) were also strong categories.
But other categories are showing growth: while only 18% of internet shoppers bought food, beverages or other groceries online in 2012, that’s nearly double the number of those who did so in 2010.
Most internet consumers (82%) placed at least one online order from a Canadian company. But that doesn’t mean they’re all patriot shoppers: 63% ordered from U.S. e-tailers, and 21% from another foreign online storefront.
What’s holding back the 44% of internet users who did not buy online in 2012? Nearly a third (30%) said they prefer to shop in person, while a similar percentage (31%) said they simply have no interest in shopping online.
What does this all mean for Canadian businesses? If you agree with Canadian Business columnist Peter Nowak, they’ve got to up their game. In this recent piece, Nowak calls out companies for their failure to keep up with consumer e-commerce demands. “The slowness to adopt new technologies is generally attributed to companies’ conservatism, which means they aren’t quick to innovate but would rather watch what others do first,” writes Nowak. “That conservatism is at odds with how Canadians use the Internet, which is quite liberally.”
Where the web-savvy are
E-commerce aside, the StatsCan study paints an interesting picture of internet use in Canada.
The most web-friendly province is B.C., where 87% of the population uses the web, followed by Alberta (85%). The lowest access levels are in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador (each with 77%).
By community, the most avid internet users are in Kelowna, B.C., where 93% of people access the web. That’s followed by Regina (90%), Victoria (90%), Calgary (89%), Vancouver (88%), Toronto (88%) and Montreal (84%).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, seniors continue to be internet laggards; however, that may soon change. Web use by Canadians aged 65 and over rose from 40% in 2010 to 48% in 2012.
More than two-thirds (67%) visited a social networking site in 2012—an increase from 58% in 2010. Some 43% of internet users used video calling (via such programs as Skype and Facetime) in 2012, up from just 24% in 2010. More than half (54%) downloaded or watched videos online, and 50% obtained music that way.
All told, nearly one-third of Canadian internet users (31%) spends more than 10 hours per week online.
Mobile goes mainstream
In 2012, more than half of internet users (58%) accessed the web online using a wireless handheld device (think: smartphone or tablet computer). Among 16- to 24-year-olds, that percentage skyrockets to 84%. By contrast, it’s just 9% for those 65 and older.
Canadians in the highest income quartile were most likely to use mobile, with 68% using a wireless device to go online in 2012. Among the lowest quartile, that number is just 26%.
This story originally appeared in Profit.