Inside Logistics

Canadian online shoppers buying internationally

Higher prices and lack of product availability at home are driving global shopping habits

April 13, 2018

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Eighty-three percent of Canadian shoppers made an online purchase from an international retailer, indicating a need for competitive prices and priority international shipping, according to a recent study.

While online shoppers still find value in shopping at physical stores, higher prices and lack of product availability are driving Canadians to shop internationally, more so than all the other countries surveyed.

The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, which is based on a comScore survey of more than 18,000 online shoppers worldwide, evaluates consumer shopping habits from pre-purchase to post-delivery. Conducted in Q1, Q2 and Q3 2017, it highlights areas of the shopping experience that have remained constant, areas that have shown significant growth and areas that may play a role in the future, including technology driven by the use of robots and chatbots.

While using a single channel is the preferred purchase method for 60 percent of Canadians, four out of 10 online shoppers in Canada are searching on one channel and purchasing via another, highlighting the importance of both the online and in-store experiences.

Consumers also expect quick fulfillment of online orders and speedy delivery. Sixty-three percent of online shoppers believe orders placed by 12 p.m. should qualify for delivery the same day and 61 percent expect orders placed by five p.m. to qualify for delivery the next day. Despite these expectations, online shoppers in Canada are the least likely to pay for premium shipping options, including same-day, next-day and two-day shipping.

While an equal number of Canadians (64 percent) have shipped back an item to the retailer versus returning it to a physical store, 51 percent indicated they found it easier to return online.

“As the e-commerce momentum continues to build, online retailers are beginning to realize the importance of building reverse logistics into their business model,” says Gordon Reed, director, industrial engineering, UPS Canada.

“Ease of use and free returns are the driving factors why consumers are increasingly making the shift to ship returns more often versus taking them back to the store.”

Although Canadian shoppers have become increasingly mobile driven, smartphones are mainly used as a research and purchasing tool. Seventy-three per cent of shoppers use their smartphone to read product details and 41 percent use their phones to make purchases.

While the role of technology in retail is growing, 53 percent of Canadians still prefer interacting with a person in a retail store. Thirty-six percent would not like dealing with a robot because of the impersonal nature of the interaction. Retailers looking to retain customers and meet customer demands should work towards elevating the in-store experience while still empowering shoppers with the option to purchase online.