Canadians Fail to Follow American Online Habits

When it comes to Internet use, Canadians tend not to follow their American neighbors to the south, but have actually adopted online habits similar to Scandinavians, according to a study by Ipsos-Reid.

Canadians display much more confidence than Americans when it comes to banking or investing online. Canadians also outpace Americans when it comes to overall Internet usage, downloading music and having high-speed Internet access.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of active Canadian Internet users have conducted financial transactions online, compared to 29 percent of active Internet users in the United States, according to online surveys conducted in March and May of 2001 using the Ipsos-Reid North American Internet Advisory Panel, which consists of 30,000 Canadian households and 50,000 American households. Nearly half (48 percent) of Canadian Internet users who have been online for less than a year have already banked online, while just 13 percent of American Internet newcomers have done so.

The difference in the levels of online banking can probably be contributed to trust. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of active Canadian Internet users said they were confident the Canadian banking industry can ensure the security and privacy of their account information and financial transactions done online. Less than half (49 percent) of active U.S. users are confident the American financial services’ industry can do the same.

“The Canadian banking system has been extremely aggressive in promoting online banking and investing and has obviously done a good job convincing Canadians that the Internet is a viable and secure option,” said Marcie Sayiner, senior management of research with Ipsos-Reid. “Of course, another contributing factor to the success of online banking in Canada is our national banking system compared with a much more regional and diffuse banking system in the U.S.”

Active Internet users in Canada and the United States who have not yet banked online agreed they favor more traditional methods of banking and have concerns about privacy or security.

Fifteen percent of active Canadian Internet users have invested online compared to 10 percent of American users, according to Ipsos-Reid. Among the Canadians who have not invested online, respondents cite a preference for dealing with a financial advisor or other investing methods, as well as privacy and security concerns. Privacy and security top the concerns for American Internet users, followed by not having enough money and preferring other methods of investing. In both Canada and the United States, the biggest users of online banking are ages 18 to 34. Internet users age 55 and older are the least likely to do their finances over the Web.

“Clearly the use of online banking and investing will only increase in the future as the younger generation, who are most comfortable using the Web for these purposes, ages and moves into more complex financial dealings,” Sherman said.

While Canadians are more likely to take their finances online, active Internet users in the United States are far more likely to shop online than Canadian Internet users, and subscribe to three times as many online newsletters than their Canadian counterparts. For example, more American Internet users (77 percent) have bought a product or service online than Canadian Internet users (68 percent). In the last year, American online shoppers have made more than twice as many online buys as Canadians — 14 purchases compared to 6.5. Canadians spent an average of Canadian $895 vs. Canadian $1,400 for Americans.

“When it comes to shopping online, the U.S. had a jump start on Canada and has never looked back. The same old issues remain: the lack of Canadian online options, exchange rates and delivery costs,” Sayiner said. “Clearly the demand is there from Canadian Internet users, but it’s up to Canadian retailers and U.S. chains with a Canadian presence to help close the gap.”

Young American shoppers (ages 18 to 34) made more online buys than those over age 34. The reverse is true in Canada, where shoppers ages 35 to 54 bought more online than younger adults. Canadian online shoppers are buying at home — 67 percent of purchases were made from a Canadian site. Americans are even more inclined to shop domestically — 93 percent of online purchasers used an U.S. site.

Canadians reported being much less satisfied than Americans with cost savings (36 percent satisfied compared to 64 percent satisfied) and slightly less satisfied with selection (61 percent satisfied compared to 73 percent satisfied). In other findings, Canadians were twice as likely to respond to Web site addresses advertised on TV, newspapers or magazines than Americans were. Some 13 percent of Canadians found the site where they made their most recent purchase this way, compared to just 5 percent of Americans. As well, active American users who have registered to receive email from a Web site sign-up for an average of 14 sites; the average for Canadians who have registered is only five.

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