Big Opportunities Remain to Optimize Ecommerce Sites for Cross-Border Shoppers

Cross-border sales are expected to account for about 15% of total global ecommerce sales by 2018, according to the latest PYMNTS.com X-Border Index powered by Digital River, a quarterly index that evaluates the readiness of global sites to manage cross-border ecommerce sales.

The findings of the most recent index show that despite undeniable growth opportunities and the fact that more consumers are increasingly shopping on sites outside of their home country, cross-border commerce is still in its nascent stages and merchants remain unprepared to welcome international shoppers. According to the Index, the average merchant scored 57 on a scale of one to 100 (100 being the highest score) when it came to optimizing their sites for global shoppers.

For the index, researchers conducted an in-depth study on 192 merchants based in 10 countries, including Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. Nearly 60 attributes – from pricing and security, to payment types and shipping options – were evaluated for each site. While the overall index score of 57 is an improvement over last quarter’s average of 55, it shows merchants still have a long way to go to accommodate the preferences of global shoppers.

The index also found that China is continuing to push forward in its rise to cross border dominance. While the United States claimed the top spot for the fourth consecutive time, it did so by a mere one point margin: the U.S. scored 66 while China tallied 65.

There are a number of areas where China pushes the envelope and makes their “borders” more accessible than other countries, including:

  • Offering free shipping
  • Displaying six or more currencies
  • Displaying their sites in six or more languages
  • Tailoring address fields to shoppers’ locations

Still, there are categories where the U.S. continues to outpace its Chinese counterparts, including:

  • Optimizing sites for mobile use
  • Accepting a broad array of payment types
  • Offering rewards programs
  • Allowing check out without a user profile

Overall, the distribution of site scores narrowed this quarter. The top 10 sites declined while the bottom 10 improved. This, along with the drop in the overall index score, shows that it’s not easy to maintain all the features and functions needed to attract a cross border shopper. So, what can merchants do to improve?

According to the X-Border Index, the best cross border sites offer:

  • Six or more display languages: Sixty percent of the best merchants allow their sites to display in six or more languages.
  • Six or more currencies: Eighty percent of the best sites display six or more currencies – a top result that continues to be strong since last quarter.
  • Pre-populated address fields that are country-specific: Sixty percent of the top sites tailor the address fields and pre-populate them with customers’ specific location, easing data entry and ensuring products arrive seamlessly.

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