OTTAWA–Statistics Canada released data from the Digital Economy Survey, the first of its kind in Canada. The survey was conducted in June and July 2018. The data collected is being used to fill important data gaps about Canadians’ activities and participation in the digital economy.

The release sheds light on Canadians’ use and purchase of various digital products, including music and video streaming services, e-books, mobile apps, and online gaming subscriptions. It covers digital payment options such as debit or credit cards, online banking, reward points and gift cards. The data also look at ways of earning money from digital platforms and apps, including selling new and used products through online bulletin boards.

The Digital Economy Survey was part of a larger effort to better understand how individual purchasing patterns and ways of earning money are changing in an increasingly digitalized world.

“Rapid changes in digital technology are transforming the way Canadians produce, deliver and consume goods and services,” said Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada. As Canada’s national statistical agency, it is our role to measure these changes so that Canadians are well-positioned to understand the impact of digitalization on their economy. The Digital Economy Survey will help us improve core economic measures and inform evidence-based policymaking, research, and program development.”

The increasing digitalization of the economy is transforming the ways that Canadians buy, consume and sell goods and services. This survey was the first to focus on Canadians’ use and purchases of digital products, such as music and video streaming services, e-books, online gaming, mobile apps and software. It also collected information on the types of payment methods Canadians use for all their personal spending, as well as ways of making money through digital platforms.

Nearly 80% of Canadians aged 18 and older reported using free versions or purchasing digital products, such as music and video streaming services, e-books, online games, mobile applications (apps) and computer software from July 2017 to June 2018. Over the same period, 28% of adults in Canada reported making money through online platforms. Digital payment methods, such as credit or debit cards and online banking, were used the most for all personal spending.

Younger Canadians more likely to use or purchase digital products. Roughly 90% of people aged 18 to 44 purchased or used free versions of digital products in the 12 months to June 2018. This rate dropped to 51% for those aged 65 and older.

Two-thirds of adults in Canada purchased digital products from July 2017 to June 2018. This proportion decreased with age, as 83% of Canadians aged 18 to 24 reported buying at least one digital product. The proportion fell to 40% for those aged 65 and older.

Income was also a factor, as 91% of those with an annual personal income of more than $100,000 reported purchasing digital products. The rate dropped to 59% for people with an annual personal income of less than $40,000.

Those who purchased digital products spent $8.1 billion from July 2017 to June 2018 or an average of $412 per purchaser. There was little difference in average spending between age groups, except for those 65 and older who had lower average spending. Men ($505) spent more on average than women ($312), and Canadians with annual personal incomes above $100,000 spent roughly 50% more on average than lower income groups.

Two-thirds of Canadians used or purchased video downloads or streaming services. 
Nearly two-thirds of Canadians aged 18 and older reported using free versions or purchasing video downloads or streaming services from July 2017 to June 2018. Purchasers spent $2.0 billion on these digital video products, with the average buyer spending $148. Those aged 18 to 24 spent on average $107 compared with $156 for the average purchaser aged 35 to 44. Average spending varied across some income groups, with Canadians who had an annual personal income of less than $40,000 spending $136, while those who earned more than $100,000 spent an average of $193.

Canadians spend more on average on computer software, mobile apps and other online subscriptions than other digital products
Over half (57%) of adults in Canada used free versions or purchased computer software, mobile applications (apps), online courses and other online subscriptions such as fantasy sports leagues or dating sites from July 2017 to June 2018. Those that purchased these products spent $3.1 billion, or an average of $258 per person. Young Canadians aged 18 to 24 spent double on average than those 65 years of age and older, while men ($316) also spent more than women ($192). The most common types of products purchased were computer software, followed by mobile apps, online storage and other online subscriptions.

Younger Canadians most likely to use or purchase digital music
Over half of Canadians aged 18 and older either purchased or used free versions of digital music, including downloads and streaming services from July 2017 to June 2018. This proportion rose to 82% for people aged 18 to 24, and fell to 18% for those aged 65 and older. Canadians spent $1.1 billion on music downloads and streaming services, with the average buyer spending $111. While Canadians aged 18 to 24 were more likely to use or purchase digital music, when they did purchase they spent the least ($97), while those aged 45 to 54 ($133) spent the most.

E-books are the most popular digital reading product purchased by Canadians
E-books, audiobooks, podcasts, online newspapers and magazines were used for free or purchased by one-third of Canadians 18 years of age and older in the 12 months to June 2018. Total spending on these digital products reached $0.7 billion, with the average purchaser spending $136. There was little difference in average spending among gender, age or income groups. The most common products purchased were e-books, followed by subscriptions to online newspapers.

Online gaming most popular among young men
Online gaming, including game downloads, subscriptions and in game-purchases, were either used for free or purchased by 31% of Canadians aged 18 and older in the 12 months to June 2018. Total spending on these products reached $1.4 billion, with the average buyer spending $223. More young men reported using or purchasing online gaming and they spent more on average than other consumers. For example, 78% of men aged 18 to 24 reported using or purchasing online games, subscriptions or in-game purchases, spending on average $380. In comparison, 27% of women in the same age group used or purchased online gaming, spending an average of $101.

More than one-quarter of Canadians make money through online platforms
From July 2017 to June 2018, 28% of Canadians aged 18 and older reported making money through online platforms. The most common method of earning money was by selling new or used products through online bulletin boards such as Kijiji, eBay and Etsy. Other ways of making money included providing online freelance services, posting creative content online, such as YouTube videos, as well as offering peer-to-peer ride, delivery or accommodation services.

People who sold products via online bulletin boards made $4.9 billion in the 12 months to June 2018, or an average of $722 per person. This activity was most popular among Canadians under the age of 44 as well as those with an annual personal income above $100,000. There was no significant difference in the average earnings from selling products via online bulletin boards between age or income groups.

Digital payment methods used for the majority of transactions
Digitization is affecting the way Canadians pay for the goods and services they buy. In the 12 months to June 2018, the bulk of total personal spending (76%) by Canadians aged 18 and older was done using digital payment methods, including debit and credit cards, pre-authorized payments or online banking. At the same time, cash or cheque were used for 21% of all personal spending, while other payment methods, such as reward points and gift cards, accounted for the remainder. On average, Canadians 65 years of age and older used cash for 30% of their total personal spending, while those aged 35 to 44 years used digital methods for 80% of all their spending.

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