Canadian SMEs optimistic about growth despite technical skills challenges
  • PayPal’s 2024 Business of Change Report uncovers the growth barriers Canadian small-medium enterprises are facing and the potential opportunities that exist with operating online.
  • 47% of Canadian online small business owners admit they have not expanded in the last three years – with a lack of technical expertise as a leading barrier to growth for more than half (59%) of respondents.
  • 70% of SMEs that sell online believe it is important to invest in technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills to adapt to a rapidly changing online environment

TORONTO, May 22nd, 2024 – While nearly half (47%) of all Canadian online small-medium enterprises (SMEs) report their business has not expanded in the last three years, this lack of growth hasn’t dampened their optimism. Eighty-two per cent of SMEs believe that with the right strategies to overcome barriers, their business has the potential to experience decent growth.

PayPal’s 2024 Business of Change Report1 reveals more than half (63%) of online businesses plan to expand their business online in the next one to two years, but nearly six in ten (59%) feel the lack of technical expertise will limit their business’ growth. Surveying 500 small business owners across Canada, this report uncovers that although the majority (88%) of online Canadian small business owners agree online sales are key to expanding their business, 66 per cent say that setting up a business has been harder than they thought.

PayPal’s 2024 Business of Change Report of 500 Canadian SME owners conducted by OnePoll in April 2024.

Barriers to growth
The research delves into the primary barriers Canadian SMEs surveyed perceive as potential hindrances to their short-term growth plans. These include:

  • Challenging economic climate (42%)
  • Competition in the industry (36%)
  • Consumers purchasing less (32%)

It isn’t just external factors that business owners feel will limit their ability to expand – they feel a lack of business confidence and skills will hold them back. Almost half (48%) of respondents identify acquisition of new customers as a significant challenge in expanding their online presence, whereas more than a third (33%) face difficulties in boosting customer conversion rates, and a quarter (24%) grapple with cashflow management.

What’s more, one in five (19%) say they find it difficult to know which payment methods to offer, such as instalment payment options like buy now, pay later or offering a range of digital wallets that consumers prefer to pay with.

"With over 80% of online sellers encountering growth hurdles, it's imperative that we help them overcome roadblocks,” said Nitin Prabhu, Vice President, Small Business and Financial Services, PayPal. “With PayPal Complete Payments, our most advanced offering in the market, we're committed to simplifying the complexities faced by small business owners in Canada. Our comprehensive solution fosters growth, provides advanced fraud protection, and streamlines cross-border trade, empowering entrepreneurs to thrive."

Recent research shows there were over 70,0002 reported cybersecurity incidents in Canada in 2023, marking a 25 per cent increase from the previous year. In a world where cybersecurity risks continue to be a threat, tackling the day-to-day responsibilities of operating a business online isn’t the only thing Canadian small businesses have to worry about.

Nearly half (46%) report they do not feel prepared about their ability to protect their business and customers from fraudulent transactions. This is in addition to 43 per cent who are worried about their ability to manage and protect customer information online.  

Looking Ahead
Despite the sentiment around short-term growth, Canadian small businesses that sell online are continuing to seek different strategies and tools to increase their impact. This motivation comes from more than half (61%) of online small business owners who believe the future is bright in Canada.

To compete on the global arena, many are looking to expand beyond domestic borders and be a part of the global small business community, with 42 per cent anticipating an uptick in international sales this year. This builds on the 40 per cent who report that cross-border sales have helped contribute to revenue growth in the past year.

Additionally, 63 per cent of Canadian SMEs report that giving shoppers more choice in how they can pay will be important in helping them turn prospects into customers and grow sales, reinforcing the value of being able to reach different markets and exchange in their local currency. To manage these transactions, 80 per cent feel it’s important for small online businesses to have a comprehensive suite of solutions through a single integration to ensure they have a strong and user-friendly platform both in the front and backend to keep up with the demand.

Reflecting the belief that digital transformation will be key to their future growth, 70 per cent of SMEs believe it’s important to invest in technology and AI skills to adapt to a rapidly changing online environment. In 2024, Canadian SMEs say they will be investing in areas such as improving their online and social media sales, with 51 per cent planning to ramp up sales efforts through these channels to foster growth. Other targeted areas for investment include online marketplaces (39%), international sales expansion (28%), and reinforcing online security and payment methods (17%).

For more information on PayPal’s suite of online payment solutions for small businesses, please visit

About PayPal 
PayPal has remained at the forefront of the digital payment revolution for more than 20 years. By leveraging technology to make financial services and commerce convenient, affordable, and secure, the PayPal platform is empowering millions of consumers and merchants in more than 200 markets to join and thrive in the global economy. For more information visit  


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1 PayPal’s 2024 Business of Change Report of 500 CA SME owners conducted by OnePoll in April 2024.
2 Source: Harvard Western Insurance (February 2024)

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