Canadian consumer trends: We're health-nut comparison shoppers who buy online

"... And I did it my way."

   — Frank Sinatra

Smart shopper with smartphone: Meet Canada's typical consumer. She may or may not be doing duckface.

Consumer evolution

As part of Small Business Week in Canada, BDC released a report highlighting some of the major trends shaping Canadian consumer behaviour.

If you're a Canadian entrepreneur or dream one day of becoming one, read carefully: BDC identified five main trends that are shaping your business' future.

1. Your competition is the whole planet

You'll forever be fending off competition from rival companies from the other side of the planet, because distance is no object when the Internet is the new glue of the economy. You have to compete on both price and expertise.

"We're on the Web" used to be enough. Not anymore. Your website must not only entice a potential customer, but it must also engage them. From product discovery to checkout, your company's web experience has to be as painless as possible. If you're a restaurant, ignore how easy it is to just throw a .pdf of your menu onto your site, and think of how a would-be customer will read your daily specials on her phone while weaving through sidewalk traffic.

As a business owner, you ignore sites such as Yelp at your peril. Sure, they're Sure, they're overrun prima donnas and accused of gaming their results, but hidden in there are legitimate customer concerns that you, the small business owner, would be insane to ignore.

The opinions of other consumers have supplanted those of previously-revered "experts", and are supplanted only by those of the buyer's friends and family.

It wasn't that long ago when you'd have never even considered typing your credit card details into a web browser. Now BDC has found that a third of us are more likely to consult a smartphone than a store employee when we have questions. Big-box electronics store shoppers will only be surprised that this number isn't higher.

One in 10 of those surveyed admitted to "showrooming", in which they use brick-and-mortar shops to browse, but only pull the trigger when they can buy online for less money. This practice is the bane of record stores, which is why they frown upon anyone showing up with a pen and piece of scrap paper. BDC's survey revealed that 47% of respondents researched purchases online. 42% check consumer-review sites, and the same percentage will also figure out where to buy the product they've been reviewing.

Let's look at trust levels for a second. This infographic shows how much we tend to trust various sources of product recommendations or advertising. Look how low social media ads fall on the ladder. As a business owner, how does that make you feel about your Facebook advertising budget?

Data from Deloitte and the Research and Economics analysis team at BDC.
Old-media ads are kicking social media's ass up here in Canada when it comes to trust.

Overall, 41% of respondents bought goods and services online, suggesting that the whole process isn't scaring too many people away. What do we research most before we buy? Gadgets and travel.

All these trends point to something you already knew: online retail is continuing to blow up. A $5.4 billion industry in Canada by 2012, BDC expects it to reach $10 billion by 2020. This is because we're never more than a tap away from the Internet, according to BDC:

In 2012, 84% of the population was connected to the internet and each user had, on average, 2.6 internet-capable devices, including mobile phones, laptops, desktop computers or tablets. This always-on internet presence is further enhanced by growing smartphone ownership, with over half of Canadians now owning such a device, up from one-third in early 2012. Moreover, Canadians are avid social media users, with almost two-thirds of Canadian internet users logging onto Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn every day.

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