Canadian businesses grossed $305 billion in e-commerce sales in 2019

The importance of e-commerce in the Canadian marketplace continues to grow. In 2019, Canadian businesses with five or more employees grossed $305 billion in e-commerce sales, which represented 8% of their total revenues and approximately 1% of global e-commerce sales, according to statistics from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Online sales have more than doubled since 2013 when all Canadian businesses grossed $136 billion. E-commerce sales refer to sales where orders were received, and the commitment to purchase was made, over the Internet. This includes business-to-consumer transactions, as well as business-to-business transactions.

One-quarter (25%) of Canadian businesses had at least some e-commerce sales in 2019. Large businesses (39%) were the most likely to report online sales, followed by medium-sized businesses (34%) and small businesses (23%). Similarly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that 22% of small businesses from reporting member countries had online sales in 2019.

Sectors that traditionally sell to other businesses accounted for the majority of the value of total Canadian online sales in 2019, a trend that has also been observed in other countries with high e-commerce sales, according to statistics from the UNCTAD. While retail e-commerce is typically the focus of discussions regarding online sales, goods sold in retail stores were often procured in bulk over the Internet at higher levels of the supply chain. The wholesale trade ($85 billion), transportation and warehousing ($60 billion) and manufacturing ($38 billion) sectors were the largest contributors to total Canadian e-commerce sales in 2019, while the retail trade sector grossed $22 billion in online sales over the same period.

Retail e-commerce sales are on track to reach record levels in 2020 as new measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 have significantly affected how consumers make retail purchases. Statistics Canada previously reported that retail e-commerce sales more than doubled from February to May 2020, to a record of almost $4 billion in May. Retail online sales have since slowed as the economy began to reopen over the summer.

More highlights from the report 

  • 70% of businesses with online sales used a company website vs. 36% that used another third-party website, platform, app or online marketplace
  • 81% of companies accepted credit cards, 55% accept online payment services, and 25% accept debit card payments
  • 98% of companies with online sales had customers located in Canada, 22% had customers in the U.S.
  • 86% of Canadian businesses had at least one type of web presence, 77% had a website, 57% had social media or paid advertising
  • 14% of businesses with online sales used a social media account to conduct those sales, small business were the most likely to do so
  • 19% of Canadian businesses offered some or all of their employees the option of telework in 2019 – by October 2020 over 2 million Canadians who did not typically work from home were doing so because of the pandemic
  • 80% of Canadian businesses used at least one type of information and communication technology (ICT) in 2019, such as company-wide computer networks or cloud computing  
  • 9% of Canadian businesses employed one or more ICT specialists in 2019
  • The two cloud computing services most commonly used by businesses were storage capacity (88%) and cloud-based software (83%)
  • On average, businesses with cloud computing reported spending $27,000 on those services in 2019, which represented less than 1% of their average revenue
  • While adoption of AI is still rare, 17% of large businesses had adopted some software or hardware using AI
  • Among businesses that used AI technologies, machine learning (56%) and automatic speech recognition (33%) were the most frequently used technologies.

Source: Stats Canada