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MaRS Market Intelligence is regularly asked to help entrepreneurs determine how many potential customers they might have for their product or service. These customers might be:
I. Individual Consumers (e.g., the number of males aged 18 to 35)
II. Professions, Occupations and Groups (e.g., the number of physical therapists or university students)
III. Enterprises (e.g., the number of restaurants or businesses with a specific employee count or range)
The following advice and links should be generic enough to get most entrepreneurs started on their own research. However, we recognize that your information needs may be so specific that additional expert assistance may be needed. Please contact your MaRS advisor or Regional Innovation Centre about accessing MaRS Market Intelligence services if you can’t source the data you need.
As most entrepreneurs are primarily focused on the North American market initially, we have focused on US and Canadian sources. This guide looks at the Canadian consumer and enterprise market only. For guidance on how to size the US consumer and enterprise market, visit: How do I find US market data?
Most of the links below will be derived from Statistics Canada, but you can also check out CANSIM, Statistics Canada’s key socioeconomic database accessing the latest statistics available in Canada. The site also contains a tutorial for users to get a better idea of how to search CANSIM.
Where appropriate, we have included links to other sources, including commercial market research firms, but typically, these providers only provide snippets or highlights for free.
Before you dive in, please note that Statistics Canada currently offers both free and paid data. Free data can be found on the main Statistics Canada website. Other data may be available through a custom run, which can be costly, time consuming and in some cases cannot be used for commercial purposes.
I. Individual consumers
Canadian Internet Use Survey (Statistics Canada): This report includes statistics on Internet penetration, rates of use and e-commerce by individuals and households.
2016 Communications Monitoring Report : The full report surveys the landscape of broadcasting, telecommunications and media within Canada, with a huge range of data points.
2014 Canada Digital Future in Focus (comScore): This report details prevailing trends of the past year including Internet usage, high-growth categories, online advertising, video and search.
General population & demographics
Statistics Canada will be your main source for population and basic demographic statistics. They produce hundreds of tables for variables ranging from age and sex to family status and place of birth. Good starting points for your research include:
- Statistics by Subject: Population and Demography (Statistics Canada)
- Census of Canada (2011): Data from the 2016 census will be released incrementally throughout 2017. The schedule can be viewed on the Census of Canada website.
- Annual Population Estimates: Canada, Provinces and Territories: This outlines the most current population estimates by five-year age groups and gender.
- Annual Population Estimates by Census Metropolitan Area, Canada: This outlines the most current population estimates by age groups and gender within a given metropolitan area.
- Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2009 to 2036: See Tables 10 to 21.
- 2011 Census: Families and Households: This report provides counts of two-parent and single-parent families broken out by the number of children.
- 2011 Census: Demographic Counts: These tables include demographic counts using data dimensions such as age and sex, language, families, households and marital status, etc.
- Women in Canada: A Gender-Based Statistical Report 2010-2011, 6th edition: A compilation of data related to women’s family status, education, employment, economic well-being, unpaid work, health, and more.
II. Professions, occupations and groups
Good starting points include:
Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS) (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) : If you want to understand future growth within a specific occupation, COPS is the only source that provides projected employment data, as well as current data. While the occupation classification scheme that underlies this system is very granular, COPS itself only provides data for three-digit-level or broader groups of occupations.
Here are sample links from Statistics Canada to specific tables with occupational membership counts.
2011 Census: Occupation Counts: This table offers occupation counts using the following data dimensions:
- Occupation – National Occupation Classification for Statistics 2006
- Selected demographic, cultural, labour force, educational income characteristics
If you are looking for counts of students, whether they are elementary, secondary or postsecondary, you should try these resources:
If the profession or occupation you’re targeting is regulated or requires a license to practice, the regulatory or licensing body might be able to provide counts. However, many professions and occupations are regulated at the provincial level, so counts may only be collected at that level and then will have to be added up. Many occupations and professions, however, will have a national umbrella organization that might aggregate data.
The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) website can be used to identify regulatory or licensing bodies:
- Information regarding employment in Canada for specific professions and trades (CICIC): Select the relevant occupational profile and look for the links to the appropriate regulatory or licensing bodies.
Regulatory Directory (Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation [CLEAR]): An international association of professional regulatory bodies, offers a topical directory of associations, colleges and boards that are involved in the regulation or licensure of various professions. Many Canadian organizations are represented here.
Spending and Health Workforce: Workforce (CIHI): This site offers workforce and demographic data on physicians, nurses and other health care professionals.
Industry or trade associations sometimes provide employment or workforce data for their vertical. To find the relevant associations, try these links:
- CharityVillage Professional Associations: CharityVillage has an alphabetical listing of Canadian associations, with some international listings as well. It is time-consuming to browse, but is perhaps the best free online listing of Canadian organizations.
- Job Market Trends and News (Government of Canada): This resource offers news and events from the previous month that may affect the labour market throughout Canada. Users can isolate occupation types and search by province.
- Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS): This resource from Employment and Social Development Canada, allows users to find the projected demand and supply data of 140 occupations in Canada.
The best source for Canadian business counts data is Statistics Canada’s Canadian Business Patterns (CBP). The CBP’s database is updated semi-annually and is based on the Business Register, a complete, up-to-date and unduplicated list of all active businesses in Canada that have a corporate income tax (T2) account, are an employer, or have a GST account with an annual gross business income of over $30,000.
Canadian Business Patterns is available at many large public libraries, including the Toronto Reference Library. We encourage you to explore this resource at your local library.
Note: CBP data is not available free of charge, despite the recently implemented open license agreement covering most Statistics Canada data.
These links provide alternative ways of arriving at business counts:
Canadian Industry Statistics (CIS) (Industry Canada): CIS provides establishment counts with break-outs for employment size and by region for most industries. Their data is derived from a recent (not necessarily the most recent) edition of CBP. Select the relevant NAICS or industry code; then select “Establishments” as your topic to generate the relevant data. Unfortunately, the industries covered may be too broad to be of use, and there are some odd gaps in coverage.
Key Small Business Statistics (Industry Canada): This semi-annual publication provides information on the most frequently asked questions pertaining to small businesses in Canada. Includes information on job creation, firm survival, share of high-growth firms, earnings by business size and more.
If a sector is regulated, there may be business count data available from the regulator. Here are some sample industry links:
Licences: Licensed Market Participants (Ontario Energy Board): The Ontario Energy Board licenses distributors, transmitters, generators, retailers, wholesalers and smart sub-meterers within the electricity sector as well as consumer gas marketers.
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada (OSFI): The OSFI oversees all Canadian banks, foreign banks operating in Canada, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, insurance companies and pension plans. The “Financial Data” section can be used to generate a list of relevant institutions. Unfortunately, there is no way to download the list.