Government ecommerce data is like a history lesson. It is based on something that has already happened. A case in point is new business-to-business data in from Statistics Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The data is 11 months old, but in 2021, B2B ecommerce in Canada boomed because of buyer behavior changed by COVID-19, says Statistics Canada. “Since the onset of the pandemic, work and business transactions have increasingly been conducted virtually rather than in-person,” the agency says in a new report. “This has continued through 2021 for many businesses, as the pandemic has emphasized the need to use digital technologies to adapt to new realities.”
In 2021, Canadian businesses with five or more employees grossed 398 billion Canadian dollars (US$289.5 billion) in ecommerce sales, up 30% higher from CA$305 billion (US$221.9 billion) in 2019, the year preceding the start of the pandemic. “This also marked a four-fold increase in ecommerce sales over the past decade, when sales reached CA$106 billion in 2012,” the agency says. Statistics Canada did not break out B2B online sales for 2020 or offer a forecast for growth in 2022.
But the ecommerce section of its latest Survey of Digital Technology and Internet Use does suggest that more businesses will continue to see an uptick in B2B ecommerce sales long after the pandemic ends. “Almost one in five (19%) businesses reported they were likely going to permanently increase their online sales capacity once the pandemic ends,” the report says.
Industries with a greater amount of business-to-business transactions dominated e-commerce sales. The manufacturing sector accounted for one-quarter of all e-commerce sales at CA$105 billion (US$76.4 billion), followed by wholesale trade at CA$77 billion (US$56.0 billion) and transportation and warehousing at CA$51 billion (US$37.1 billion). In addition, the retail trade sector grossed CA$35 billion in ecommerce sales over the same period, an increase of 60% since 2019 at CA$22 billion (US$8.0 billion), according to Statistics Canada.
Other takeaways from the report include:
- One-third (33%) of Canadian businesses had at least some ecommerce sales in 2021, marking an increase from 2019, when one-quarter (25%) received or made sales of goods or services over the Internet.
- Large businesses (38%) were the most likely to report ecommerce sales, while medium (36%) and small (32%) businesses did not lag far behind. This compares favorably to other small businesses internationally; the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that 25% of small businesses from reporting member countries had online sales in 2020.
- Canadian businesses with ecommerce sales grossed, on average, CA$3.7 million (US$2.7 billion) in sales over the Internet in 2021, however this varied by size of business. Large businesses reported, on average, CA$79 million (US$57.7 million) in gross e-commerce sales, while medium-sized businesses reported CA$4.2 million (US$3.1 million) and small businesses reported CA$580,000 (US$491,297)
- Canadian businesses of all sizes saw an increase in ecommerce in 2021, both in terms of the percentage of businesses that had ecommerce sales, as well as the average ecommerce sales grossed. Most notably, this growth was greatest for small businesses, where 41% more small businesses sold online in 2021, and had an average increase of 65% in e-commerce sales compared with 2019.
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