This year’s Canadian consumer is more likely than ever to sip egg nog in front of their computers than trudge through crowded shopping malls to purchase holiday gifts, according to a survey commissioned by Visa Canada.
According to the survey, more than 1.7 million adult Canadians will buy at least some of their holiday gifts online this year, representing a 60 per cent increase over last year. However, those people are also holding onto their purse strings a little tighter this year, creating a projected 25 per cent drop in spending.
It’s the convenience and selection of the Internet, along with an increase in security confidence that is driving the upswing in online shoppers this season, says Susan MacKeown, director of e-Visa for Visa Canada.
“I think, too, the Internet is a great means of research,” MacKeown said. “Instead of wandering around the mall looking dazed, wondering where to start and looking for inspiration, it’s easier to have a cup of coffee and wander around the Internet. You may make a physical world purchase or you may decide to do it right there and it’s done.”
She added that zero-liability policies where consumers are guaranteed that they are not liable for fraudulent spending and Web sites that have a 128-bit encryption have helped encourage more wary consumers.
While GartnerG2 research director Hung LeHong agrees that more will shop online for holiday cheer this year, his estimates are a bit more conservative than Visa’s.
“We have our own survey and we are looking at a 39 per cent increase over last year worldwide,” he said. “I live in Toronto and I know the Canadian market is generally lower than the world total, because the world total is driven predominantly by the United States.”
Additionally, he thinks the reason for more online shopping is simply a matter of volume.
“You have more people with access to the Internet and you have more people who have experience with the Internet,” he said. “Channel integration between the Internet and bricks and mortar is a lot more advanced than it was before. You can order something online and pick up at the store, or you can return it to the store.”
He said higher speed broadband connections might add a little to the amount, but isn’t the main reason. The average online shopper will be an 18 to 34-year old professional looking for convenience above all else, he added.
But Michael LeBlanc, director of marketing for HBC.com, isn’t looking strictly at that demographic. Going against the grain of the Visa survey results, HBC.com is aimed at 35 to 55 year old women because, says LeBlanc, “we aim at those who shop and that’s who shops.”
“What we did to prepare for this is long past,” he said of the expected higher volume of shoppers. “It was this time last year. We have been prepared for an uptake in e-commerce for a while.”
HBC.com, which LeBlanc said is aimed at both Zellers and The Bay customers, focuses on promises that consumers get what they want and get it fast.
“We don’t take orders for products that don’t exist and we ship out in 24 hours,” he said.
However, HBC.com is no solution for the die-hard last minute shoppers.
“If you order on the 23rd (from us) and it didn’t show up by the 24th, you would be at the mall,” he said. “We are prudently conservative. We could probably pull it off, but it doesn’t leave a great comfort level.”
Instead, the time and product guarantees are intended to make lighter work of an ordinarily daunting task.
According to the Visa survey, online shoppers will make up 16 per cent of adult Canadians consumers this year, compared to 10 per cent last year.
Twenty seven per cent of people buying online plan to buy books, another 20 per cent plan to buy clothes, 16 per cent toys, 16 per cent electronic equipment, 14 per cent music, and eight per cent computer-related items.
Visa Canada in Toronto is at http://www.visa.ca
The Hudson’s Bay Company in Toronto is at http://www.hbc.com
GartnerG2 is at http://www.gartnerg2.com