MONTREAL - Consumers have become more demanding shoppers online, expecting discounts and free shipping with a group of younger shoppers called "online super buyers" leading the way, says an e-commerce survey.
Almost two-thirds of Canadians — 63 per cent — say they opted to shop online in the last six months to save money, according to the survey by market research firm The NPD Group. The survey says fashion accessories, footwear and electronics were consistently the top sellers.
While Canadians may accept full price when they buy in a store, they are bargain-driven online.
"The perception is that online is sort of like a clearance centre, if you will, and people just expect that they're going to get a price discount," said The NPD Group's fashion industry analyst Sandy Silva.
Silva said the idea that prices should be lower on websites may have spilled over from the travel industry's shift to online in recent years and consumers increasingly searching for the best vacation deals.
Those described as "online super buyers" are usually younger, make up about a third of web shoppers and buy "all kinds of stuff" — such as beauty products, clothes, games, toys and digital downloads, Silva said. They want lower prices and are the strongest influencers of Canadian e-commerce trends, the survey found.
"When you're looking at the millennial consumer they're trained to be really quick on searching various websites and demanding things right away at the best prices," said Silva.
Marta Tryshak considers herself an online super buyer and said there's "absolutely nothing" she wouldn't buy online.
"I've bought groceries online," said Tryshak, 25, a website creator who has been shopping online for five years and finds prices more competitive.
Overall, online retailers offer more variety, she said.
"You can log on and go shopping at 3 o'clock in the morning," said Tryshak, who launched the lifestyles website WithLoveGabrielle.com in 2008.
"The store never closes."
A lack of free shipping and returns are a deal breaker for Tryshak because she said consumers are already paying for the product and it should be part of the service they get.
The survey found that free shipping is a big factor with 85 per cent of those asked saying that it would encourage them to buy more online.
But consumers who are 55 and over are still apprehensive about shopping online and shipping costs remain a barrier for them, the survey found.
As for online shopping, women and men have their own habits.
The survey found that 65 per cent of women surveyed were more likely to purchase online to save time and effort versus 62 per cent of men. But Silva pointed out that men expected lower prices online, while women expect prices to be comparable to what's in stores.
Statistics Canada recently reported big growth in online shopping, with the value of web orders placed by Canadians hitting $18.9 billion in 2012, up 24 per cent from 2010 when the survey was last conducted.
But Silva said Canadian retailers need to have both websites and stores with so many other retailers coming into Canada from the U.S. and beyond.
"People are becoming so much more savvy and you need to appeal to the masses every way that you can."
The online survey was done last August and sampled just under 2,200 Canadians.