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E-Commerce and retail


The term retail as it is used today often refers to both traditional in-store retail and electronic commerce or e-commerce. E-commerce refers to the sale or purchase of goods or services, conducted over computer-mediated networks. The goods and services are ordered over those networks, but the payment and the ultimate delivery of the good or service may be conducted on or off-line.

New technologies continue to influence the e-commerce industry creating new forms of e-commerce such as mobile commerce (commerce mediated through mobile devices) or social commerce (the use of social networks to drive commerce).

Users will find these links helpful as they build their businesses in e-commerce. Items marked with a star () are recommended reads.

This page consists of the following sections:

I. E-Commerce and Retail Trends

II. E-Commerce and Retail Statistics

III. Tracking Latest Developments in E-Commerce and Retail


I. E-Commerce and retail trends



National Retail Bulletin (J.C. Williams Group): This monthly report on retail sales activity in Canada is based on figures from Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada. The bulletin includes longer-term retail category trends, monthly inflation data, and changes in the consumer confidence index.

Retail Council of Canada (RCC): RCC is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association representing more than 43,000 store fronts of all retail formats across Canada, including department, specialty, discount and independent stores as well as online merchants. Industry research is available with an association membership.

United States

the e-tailing group: This e-commerce consultancy has a research library comprised of their client-sponsored e-commerce research. Topics range from consumer behaviour to multi-channel commerce.

The Future of Retail (PSFK, 2011): This annual survey of retail trends comes from PSFK’s business innovation team. Users must pay for access to the full report but the summary presentation is free.

iProspect: This digital marketing agency produces white papers and webcasts about online retail.

National Retail Federation (NRF): NRF is the retail industry’s trade association, representing retailers of all types in the US and around the world. NRF curates and produces industry research. Several reports are freely available, while others require membership access.

Stores.org: A publication of NRF that produces a monthly publication and several annual lists:

 The State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy in Q2 2012 (comScore, 2012): In this presentation, comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni and Vice President of Industry Analysis Andrew Lipsman explore economic and online retail trends powered by comScore data.


The World’s Next E-Commerce Superpower (The Boston Consulting Group, 2011): Drawing from surveys of more than 4,000 online shoppers across China’s cities, this analysis highlights the conditions that make China’s e-commerce environment unique and points out the crucial trends companies must be aware of to achieve success. To view the full report, you need to register an account.


Understanding both the online and offline behaviour of consumers is important for entrepreneurs building B2C (business-to-consumer) e-commerce startups. These resources provide a good overview of consumers from various regions.


Reports and Downloads: Canada (Nielsen): Neilsen conducts regular surveys to track Canadian consumer confidence. To access the full reports, registration is required.

Individual Internet use and E-Commerce (Statistics Canada): This 2010 survey measures household and individual Internet usage through income, age, geography, online activity, mobile use and e-commerce.

Survey of Household Spending (Statistics Canada): This 2010 survey measures household spending on shelter, transportation, food, communications and healthcare.

2012 Deloitte Retail Study: The rise of the connected consumer: This study examines how retailers in BC and Alberta are using e-commerce, m-commerce and social media to respond to the changing demands of their customers.

DX3 Digest: Canadian eCommerce, Part 1: The Consumer: This report details general e-commerce trends of the Canadian consumer.

United States

 Consumer Spending Surveys (Deloitte):  Deloitte’s Retail & Distribution practice conducts multiple consumer surveys throughout the year to measure consumer sentiment and spending behaviours. Surveys include a back-to-school survey and a holiday survey.

Customer Returns in the Retail Industry (The Retail Equation): The Retail Equation, a retail vendor, compiles data from the National Retail Federation’s annual returns survey to create a report on return fraud and abuse.

The Millennial Consumer (The Boston Consulting Group, 2012): The Boston Consulting Group, along with Barkley and Service Management Group, surveyed 4,000 Millennials (ages 16 to 34) and 1,000 non-Millennials (ages 35 to 74) in the United States. A key goal of this research was to identify how behaviours and attitudes differ between the two groups (as it relates to their shopping habits), and to determine which of those differences are truly generational characteristics of Millennials, and not those associated with youth in general.

 Online Shopping Customer Experience Study (comScore, 2012): Commissioned by UPS, this report provides insights into consumers’ online shopping behaviours and preferences. This study examines the customer experience from pre-purchase through post-delivery.

 Where people get information about restaurants and other local businesses (Pew Research Center, 2011): This report is based on a survey of Americans and explores the sources of information people use to learn about local businesses.


Capitalizing on the Smarter Consumer (IBM, 2011): In October 2010, the IBM Institute for Business Value conducted an online survey of 30,624 consumers living in seven mature economies (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US) and six growth economies (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia and Mexico) to learn what factors influence today’s smarter consumer.


Mobile commerce

The rise in popularity of smartphones and tablets has driven commerce mediated by mobile devices. This is known as mobile commerce, or M-commerce.

Digby: This mobile commerce platform has compiled a statistics page on mobile commerce, including the original source publications.

The rise of in-store mobile commerce (Pew Internet Research, 2012): This Pew survey examines how Americans use their phones to assist in their purchase decisions.

Social commerce

Social networks such as Facebook or Twitter can also drive e-commerce transactions. These resources include statistics and reports on this emerging area.

Group Buying Canada: This site by Albert Bitton features news and analysis on group buying in Canada.

Merchants of Social (MaRS, 2012): This MaRS Market Intelligence report looks at the rise of social commerce, profiling six Ontario companies that are part of this growing segment.

 Social Commerce (JWT Intelligence, 2011): This study examines three key trends:

    • rising Facebook commerce
    • overlaying the social graph on e-commerce sites
    • introducing the social graph to the brick-and-mortar world

The report looks at what innovative retailers and others are doing in these areas and what drives each trend. The significance and potential for marketers is explored. Users need to complete a form to access the full report.

 Social Commerce Playbook (360i): This a comprehensive guide for marketers on the intersection of social media and commerce. The report delves into the shifting consumer shopping habits and emerging digital technologies that are changing the way brands connect with people online.

Social commerce statistics (Bazaarvoice): This is a collection of social commerce statistics by Bazaarvoice, a social commerce provider.

Social Commerce Stats (PowerReviews): This is a collection of social commerce statistics by PowerReviews, a social commerce company.

 Turning “Like” to “Buy”: Social Media Emerges as a Commerce Channel (Booz & Company, 2011): In this report, Booz & Company estimates the market size for social commerce, describes developments in this segment and details four imperatives for getting started with social commerce.
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II. E-Commerce and retail statistics


Neighbourhood Profiles (City of Toronto): Prepared by Toronto’s Social Policy Analysis & Research unit, these profiles provide detailed demographic information about each neighbourhood (e.g., the Annex, Danforth Village). 2011 data is published as it is released from Statistics Canada.

Ward Profiles (City of Toronto): Toronto ward profiles present useful summaries of demographic data at the ward level. Data currently draws from the 2006 census.


Statistics Canada: Retail and Wholesale: Statistics Canada provides statistical and analytical information on retail and wholesale sales by type (such as establishment and product) and provides financial information such as operating profits and expenses, profit margins and the cost of goods sold. Key retail and e-commerce resources include:

    • Canada Year Book: Retail and wholesale trade: The annual Canada Year Book charts key trends and indicators in the nation’s economy, population, society and environment. To download the full education section in PDF format, click on the PDF version to the right.
    • Retail Trade: This publication provides retail sales estimates for all retail locations in Canada―by trade group and by province or territory.

Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA): The CSCA is a non-profit research unit based at Ryerson University in Toronto. The CSCA focuses on information and analysis that enables Canada’s commercial and retail industries to become more innovative and to improve their competitive economic performance. CSCA databases are available to members at a cost. CSCA reports are accessible to both members and non-members, with prices ranging between $50 and $400.

Canadian Industry Statistics: Retail Trade (Industry Canada): Canadian Industry Statistics analyses industry data on a number of economic indicators using the latest annual data sources from Statistics Canada.

2006 Community Profiles: These profiles provide community-level information for small and large metropolitan. Users can find occupation, marital, immigration, household characteristics and other population data, for municipalities across Canada.

United States

United States Census Bureau: Here you will find links to the latest monthly and annual retail trade reports and the Bureau’s quarterly e-commerce report.

Consumer Expenditure Survey (Bureau of Labor Statistics): This program consists of two surveys, the Quarterly Interview Survey and the Diary Survey, that provide information on the buying habits of American consumers.


III. Tracking latest developments in e-commerce and retail

These websites and events will help keep entrepreneurs up-to-date with the latest developments in e-commerce.

E-commerce and retail news and blogs

Internet Retailer Magazine: Produced by Vertical Web Media, this publication focuses on providing business intelligence for the e-commerce market.

Mobile Commerce Daily: Run by Mobile Marketer, this website publishes news, analysis and opinions on mobile marketing, media and commerce.

Retail Technology Trends: Written by Tim Dickey, a Mississauga retail technology consultant, this blog focuses on retail trends and customer interactions.

Shopify Blog: Run by Shopify, the online platform that allows retailers to implement a simple e-commerce solution for their online stores, this blog presents tips, anecdotes, solutions and general information about the world of online shopping.

E-commerce and retail events

E-Commerce Camp Toronto: This event is an opportunity for individuals in Toronto to network and learn from the e-commerce community.

E-Commerce Toronto: This is a monthly Toronto Meetup Group for Canadian e-commerce merchants and professionals.

Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum: This forum aims to provide attendees with the mobile strategies, practices and networking opportunities necessary to develop a mobile commerce business.

Mobile Transactions & Commerce: The Strategy Institute holds more than 40 educational conferences and seminars annually, including this mobile commerce summit. Attendees include retailers, merchants, banks, transactions processors and more.

Retail Advertising & Marketing Symposium: This symposium engages retailers, advertisers, agency and media professionals involved in marketing, retail strategy, advertising and promotions.
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