How Canadian Consumers View E-commerce

Results of a recent survey, E-commerce and Security in Canada: The Consumer Perspective, indicate a cautious endorsement of e-commerce online activities by Canadians. If e-commerce is to realize its full potential among consumers, however, major concerns about security will have to be addressed.

Commissioned by E-commerce+, a business unit of IT consulting firm LGS Group Inc., the survey polled a cross-section of Canadians about their experiences with, and their expectations of, e-commerce. It was conducted in January by Gallup Canada Inc.

Among the key findings were the following:

    A third of Canadians use electronic channels more than several times a week.90 per cent expect organizations to have security measures in place, and say they will not trust those who do not provide such protection.43 per cent cite concerns about security of transactions as a reason for not using electronic channels to order goods and services online.83 per cent believe there should be government legislation to protect consumers in online financial transactions.Nearly two-thirds of Canadians see the Internet as the least secure electronic channel.While 95 per cent of Canadians stated that they would not give personal credit card information to strangers, more than half have given credit card numbers over the telephone to order products and services.


Most Canadians say they have used electronic channels in the past 12 months. In particular, 40 per cent have used the Internet. Internet usage was highest in B.C. (49 per cent), among students (83 per cent), and among those with incomes over $70,000 (71 per cent).

While Canadians have embraced new electronic channels, their levels of satisfaction vary depending on the channel used. They are most comfortable with technology that has been available for a number of years, such as Automated Banking Machines. The Internet rated 51 per cent high or medium satisfaction (but 92 per cent among students).

Canadians are beginning to spend money to buy goods and services through electronic channels, with 70 per cent reporting they have ordered by phone or by computer in the past year. During that period, 26 per cent spent $100 or more through electronic channels, while 11 per cent spent more than $1,000, although 23 per cent of the people of Saskatchewan spent that much. This year, 61 per cent intend to spend about the same as they did in 1998, while 20 per cent intend to spend more and 11 per cent intend to spend less.


Although electronic channels provide access to a huge array of goods and services, Canadians have a marked preference when shopping online. Of goods and services they are likely to buy, respondents identified books or CDs (16 per cent) as their leading preference. Other products and services listed include:

    Videos, records – 11 per centComputers or software – 10 per centFinancial services – 7 per centGroceries – 6 per centClothing – 5 per centNew cars – 2 per cent


While Canadians feel quite strongly that security measures are needed, few seem prepared to verify that their electronic transactions are secure. When asked if they verified whether organizations they conducted e-commerce activities with have security measures in place, only 20 per cent of respondents claimed to have done so.

And yet 92 per cent stated that they would stop doing business with organizations that did not have security measures in place. Moreover, only 6 per cent would be willing to trust any organization that would not implement security measures to safeguard financial transactions through electronic channels. Indeed, 90 per cent of Canadians expect organizations that engage in electronic commerce activities to have security measures in place.

As strongly as Canadians feel about security of e-commerce transactions, it is not surprising that they support a number of activities that would help to ensure that security measures are in place. In particular, 83 per cent favour government legislation that would promote e-commerce security, 78 per cent support the creation of a monitoring organization to ensure security measures are implemented, and 36 per cent would be willing to pay additional cost to ensure transactions are secure.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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