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.

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 E-commerce in Canada (CIRA, 2016): This report provides an overview of the current e-commerce trends in Canada, focusing on growth opportunities, expected spending and consumer behaviour. The study was conducted by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).


The International Brand E-commerce Experiences Localization: This research report discusses global retail e-commerce, focusing mainly on the e-commerce trends in China and the challenges faced when attempting to enter the Chinese market.

How Savvy, Social Shoppers Are Transforming E-commerce (McKinsey, 2016): This study describes the recent changes in e-commerce and the growth prospects associated with trends in low-tier cities, social media and cross-border shopping.


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.

Ericsson ConsumerLab: This collection of reports focusing on consumer behavior across 80 countries addresses urban environments cultures and living conditions.

Survey of Household Spending (Statistics Canada): This 2015 survey measures household spending on shelter, transportation, food, communications and healthcare.

United States

Consumer Spending (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.

Millennial Consumer Trends (Elite Daily, 2015): This study provides an overview of consumer behavior, social media consumption and media expectations within the millennial generation.


Sell SMART—Moving Towards a SMARTer Consumer Market (KPMG, 2015): This study looks at five themes encompassing some major challenges the industry faces, along with opportunities that can shape growth over the next five years.


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.

State of Mobile Commerce (Criteo, 2015): This report analyzes the year-to-year growth in key verticals and devices as retailers shift to people-centric strategies.

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.

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.
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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:

  • 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.

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

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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