Skip to main content
Online shopping has radically changed the way we gather gifts during the holidays. And, for the most part, it's less pain – both physical and financial

As a mother of three, Danielle Doiron dreads the thought of holiday shopping at the mall. “It is super not worth it,” says the director of parcels and e-commerce market development at Canada Post. Like 80 percent of Canadians, she shops online when she can.

As the country’s leading e-delivery provider (Canada Post delivers two out of every three parcels), the company spends a lot of time studying how people shop. “We watch it, and we do what we can to enable it,” Ottawa-based Doiron says. “We’ve seen big changes in the past three or four years.”

It’s those changes ­– from greater product selection and streamlined checkout to faster order processing and delivery – that have greatly improved the online shopping experience for all concerned. Last year, 39 percent of online shoppers spent at least half of their total retail spending online. In a study released earlier this year, Canada Post found that 55 percent of the 5,000 people surveyed cited “anytime, anywhere” convenience as the main reason they shop from home.

“I have family spread out all over the country and it’s such a game-changer to be able to shop whenever I have time,” Doiron says. “I can still send a gift-wrapped package with a personalized message, but I can do it without leaving home.”

Pain-Free Shoppinig

Doiron says it’s all about removing barriers, or “pain points,” in the online shopping process, so that people don’t abandon their carts in frustration. “One of the key things retailers are doing is expediting checkout to remove any friction for shoppers,” she says. Canada Post’s survey found 41 percent of people will complete their online purchase if the checkout process is easy, and because of faster payment options like Virtual Visa checkout, it is. Visa even introduced a digital “swipe” button earlier this year that shows people a virtual image of their debit, credit or prepaid card to not only speed up payment, but to make it feel more interactive.

“It’s nice that you don’t necessarily need a credit card to shop online anymore, and that funds can be taken right from your bank account,” says Karen Richardson, a money coach at Money Coaches Canada. She recommends filling a digital-wallet, like Apple Pay, with the budgeted amount you want to spend – and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Tools like Apple Pay conveniently store your debit and credit cards and allow you to pay online without logging in or creating a new account. “I like that the money comes right out of your ‘wallet’ with all the digital tracking benefits,” Richardson says. “As a consumer, it makes me aware of the cash I have.”

Digital technology has not only made it easier to pay, it’s also made it easier to find what you’re looking for. Thanks to big data, retailers use trend-forecasting algorithms along with social media and search histories to determine – and stock – the hottest items of the season. And thanks to the algorithms used in programmatic advertising, which offers you ads tailored to your tastes based on your own search history, you’re more likely to be directed to things that will appeal to you every time you switch on your computer.

Save While You Shop

Doing your holiday shopping digitally can also save you money. Richardson recommends taking advantage of rewards programs from your favourite online retailers (you may get one to two percent of your purchase back in the form of cash, gifts or other products). You can also earn points when you shop with programs like RBC Rewards – which earns you points that can later be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, travel or investment opportunities.

“To save online, sign up for newsletters or become a member of a store or shopping site and like them on social media to get notice of flash sales, special prices or free shipping,” says Janet Gray, an Ottawa-based certified financial planner with Money Coaches Canada. Look for sites that will price match, and do coupon searches for the stores you plan to buy from. Comparison shopping is also easier online, Gray says, and you can set alerts that will tell you when your favourite products go on sale. “In the end, you’ll spend your money smarter.”

Legal Disclaimers

Apple Pay is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owner(s).