Canadian Web purchases double in 2000: Statscan

Canadian households bought twice as many goods and services on the Internet in 2000 compared to 1999, but the total amount is only a fraction of their total personal spending, according to a Statscan report released Oct. 23.

The agency’s second annual Statscan Household Internet Use Survey found that 1.5 million Canadian households – 12.5 per cent of the nation’s estimated 11.8 million – placed 9.1 million online orders worth roughly $1.1 billion last year. By contrast, in 1999, 806,000 households placed 3.3 million orders worth $417 million.

One piece of good news for local Web merchants: Of every $7 spent online, $4 was purchased from a Canadian e-commerce vendor.

However, the value of the online economy still pales in comparison to more tried and true channels, as total personal expenditures in Canada totalled $591 billion in 2000, the survey concluded.

2000 also marked a watershed year of sorts for Canadian e-commerce – for the first time, more households used the Web to purchase goods rather than rely on it strictly for “window shopping.”

Those who continue to waffle do so out of security and privacy concerns, according to Statscan. Even e-commerce friendly households report being just as worried about security as they were in 1999.

Robert Fabian, director of Toronto-based Seneca College’s e-technology institute, and a veteran information technology consultant, said giving consumers more confidence in online shopping sites can’t be accomplished in a single stroke.

“It’s almost a trust meter. There are a whole bunch of things that will increase trust, and a whole bunch of things that will decrease trust, most of which aren’t dramatic,” Fabian said.

He advises companies to clearly state their security and privacy policies, never surprise shoppers with hidden costs at the time of purchase and always give them the feeling that they, not the sellers, are in control of the shopping experience.

Traditional retail outlets also contain a multitude of comforting signs – everything from choice of location to internal d