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PayPal survey says! Pandemic-driven e-grocery habits are here to stay

49% of respondents are now buying groceries through e-commerce, compared to 19% in March 2020
A woman holding her mobile phone and using the PayPal app

Lockdowns may be lifting across the country, but a new survey of Canadian consumers suggests online grocery shopping habits developed during the pandemic may be here to stay.

Conducted for online payment company PayPal, the “Trends & Spends” survey found Canadians are now spending $178 per month shopping online compared to $69 pre-pandemic; about $5.5 billion in total today, which is an increase of more than $2 billion a month compared to pre-COVID levels.

A significant driver in increased online shopping has been grocery. In March 2020, just 19% of Canadians were buying groceries online, in April that figure had risen to 30%. The most recent survey revealed fully 49% of respondents are now buying groceries through e-commerce.

And who is doing all that extra grocery shopping?

  • 36% of women say they are buying more groceries online, compared to just 26% of men;
  • 36% of Ontarians say they are buying more groceries online, compared to 24% to 30% in other provinces.

And while grocery shopping has increased dramatically, it’s not the most commonly shopped category online:

  • 81% of respondents are buying clothes, shoes and accessories; and
  • 72% are buying entertainment toys and games.

According to PayPal, spending is up in almost all categories including:

  • 56% of respondents are buying home office furnishings and equipment, up from 42% last April;
  • 41% have bought fitness equipment, up from 25% a year ago; and
  • 38% says they have bought school supplies online, up from 23% in April 2020.


“Last year in April, only 44% told us they anticipated shopping online more than what they were already doing. Today, that number is 59%,” said Jill Cress, PayPal vice-president, consumer marketing, in a press release. “Looking back at how overwhelmed we were at the challenges of finding toilet paper and hand sanitizers in store last year it’s great to see that just one year later, we are turning to e-commerce for all of our needs and the data shows this shift is here to stay.”

In terms of shopping patterns post-pandemic, 50% said they continue to go online to buy groceries and other items for the home and home office. The survey also asked Canadians what they predict for online shopping and digital payments further into the future.

  • Five years from now, Canadians expect they’ll make 39% of their purchases online;
  • 25% don’t expect to be using cash at all in five years;
  • About 60% say cashless transactions will be part of most shopping experiences.
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