The on-demand economy

The digital age has brought with it new expectations for quick and convenient shopping. With access to most goods and services at your fingertips, your next purchase may only be a few clicks away. Before you press the “buy now” button, read this page to better understand how the on-demand economy may be influencing your purchasing decisions.

On this page:

What is the on-demand economy?

The on-demand economy is part of the larger family of digital economies. Digital economies use digital technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet, to connect consumers to goods and services. The on-demand economy is characterized by how it provides consumers with the ability to gain almost instant access to goods and services using the Web or a smartphone application. It’s called “on-demand” because goods and services can be obtained almost instantly, with just a few clicks. For example, think about how quickly you can get food delivered to your doorstep, order a car for pick-up and drop-off, or book a vacation.

There are many examples of on-demand economy service providers, here are a few popular ones:

  • buy and sell e-commerce marketplaces (e.g. eBay, Amazon)
  • transportation and ride-sharing programs
  • food and grocery delivery
  • short or long-term rental accommodations
  • health and beauty services
  • media streaming services

How does it work?

The on-demand economy is based on supply and demand. It involves two main parties: the goods/service provider and the consumer. The provider gives you, the consumer, access to goods or services through the Web or a mobile application, which allows for a quick, convenient and, sometimes, a more personal shopping experience. 

You are typically asked to pay with your credit card and the payment is processed through the same online platform on which you requested the goods or services. Once the payment is processed and accepted, you can usually track the progress of your online transaction. For example, track order processing and package delivery or track the location of your rideshare.

Finally, once the service has been provided or the goods have been delivered, you could be prompted to leave a review or rate your experience. Those reviews and ratings are a tool for providers to shape and personalize your future shopping experience.

Things to consider

Whether you are shopping in-person or online, adopting safe and informed shopping practices is important. So, before you make your next purchase, consider these tips and reminders.

Health and Safety

  • Verify that the products you are considering meet Canadian health and safety standards, especially if you are making an international purchase.
  • Check the Health Canada website for product recalls or safety concerns.

Purchasing behaviours and product suggestions

  • Be sure to know if you’re committing to a one-time purchase or subscribing to a platform that will charge you on a recurring basis (e.g. monthly subscription food box).
  • Look beyond the suggestions the e-commerce platform is making. Remember that Web and mobile applications frequently suggest products based on your previous searches or purchasing behaviours. Although you might find the suggestions helpful, it’s important to consider how they might be affecting your decision-making. What is most important is whether or not the suggested item or service meets your needs.
  • Browse around. Make sure to explore all your purchasing options. Just like brick and mortar shopping, you may get a better price or additional product features when you compare with other online retailers.
  • Read the reviews. Consumer reviews can give you a better sense of what to expect from a product or service. Beware of potential fake reviews or ratings. Find out how to recognize, reject and report fake reviews.

Privacy and personal security

  • Avoid saving your credit card information on websites or mobile applications if it is not necessary. This is one way you can prevent impulse purchases and keep your personal information private
  • Read the Terms of Use for the application you’re using before accepting them. 
  • If the application requires location access, remember that you can control location services in your phone’s device settings.
  • Avoid providing unnecessary personal information.
  • When you’re creating an account on the Web or a mobile application, choose a strong password. You can follow these guidelines on Get Cyber Safe’s Passphrases, passwords and PINs page.

Other resources for consumers

Consumer Hub

Find answers to your transportation, financial services and telecommunications and broadcasting questions.