New Canadians More Likely to Embrace Ecommerce

Photo credit:  USDAgov  via  /  CC BY

Photo credit: USDAgov via / CC BY

By Megan Harman

As the population of newcomers to Canada continues to grow, new research shows that retailers have an opportunity to tap into this market – especially through e-commerce sales and digital advertising.

A recent study by U.S. media company Oath Inc., in partnership with New York-based advertising company GroupM, zeroed in on Canadian newcomers’ media consumption, cultural mindset and shopping attitudes and behaviours. The companies surveyed 935 newcomers from four Canadian provinces, and compared those results with a sample of residents who were born in Canada.

The results reveal that newcomers are far more likely than other Canadians to make purchases online on a regular basis. Specifically, 53% of new Canadians said they make purchases online at least once a week. That compares with 38% of Canada-born respondents.

(Photo: Shannon Austin, LinkedIn)

(Photo: Shannon Austin, LinkedIn)

“Newcomers are significantly more likely to make purchases online,” says Shannon Austin, sales data insights manager at Oath.

When it comes to browsing online shopping sites, however, new Canadians lag behind. Of the newcomers surveyed, 52% said they browse e-commerce websites at least once a week, compared to 61% of other Canadians.

“Newcomers are much more transactional,” Austin says, “as opposed to a leisurely activity of just browsing for a pastime.”

As immigrants settle into life in Canada, many say that buying Canadian products is part of the process of forming a connection to their new country. They are open to trying new brands and products, and they tend to have a positive perception of the brands in Canada, the research suggests.

“New Canadians are significantly more likely to feel that brands in Canada offer better quality,” Austin says. “They are less likely to say that they stick to their favourite brands, and they are less likely to know what brands they want when they go shopping.”

When making purchasing decisions, price is a key factor for immigrants to Canada.

“Across all the categories, we asked what influences their purchase decisions,” Austin says. “We see that price is at top of that list for most things.”

That’s not the case when they’re buying beauty products, however. The research shows that in the beauty category, quality is the top factor influencing the product that newcomers decide to purchase. They’re also interested in brand prestige to a greater extent than Canada-born shoppers.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

A vast majority of newcomers try new beauty products when they arrive in Canada, the research shows. That’s partly because not all of the products they used in their home country are available in the Canadian market, and because the Canadian climate can demand different types of products, Austin says.

“We know that they are switching up their beauty routine,” Austin says.

Canadian brands have an opportunity to capture business in this market, Austin says – especially through advertising.  When shopping for beauty products, 80% of newcomers said that advertising was one of the top influencing factors in their purchase decision. That compares to just 28% of Canada-born shoppers.

Advertising tends to resonate with Canadian newcomers in other categories, as well. When shopping for groceries, for example, new Canadians pointed to advertising as the most influential factor when deciding which brands of food to buy.

Advertising also drives newcomers online in search of products, the research shows. Of the newcomers surveyed, 60% said they search for items that they’ve seen advertised at least once a week, compared to 50% of other Canadians.

Since immigrants spend more time on their mobile devices than Canadians born in Canada, on average, mobile advertising could be an effective channel for retailers and brands to reach this market, Austin says. Specifically, 48% of new Canadians said they spend more than three hours on their smartphone every day, compared to 37% of Canada-born respondents.

“Retailers need to keep that in mind when thinking about how to connect with [newcomers],” she says.


Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm ( Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.

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