International Ecommerce to Grow to $50 Billion by 2020

Feb 05, 2014 10:01 AM  By

International sales from U.S. online retailers will jump from $11 billion in 2014 to almost $50 billion by 2020, which would make up 16% of the overall U.S. online retail market, according to a report released today by OC&C Strategy Consultants.

The OC&C study estimated the value of the online retail export market by analyzing 2011 to 2013 search volumes from across the world for retailers based in six of the biggest e-commerce markets. These markets, including the UK, the U.S., Germany, the Nordics, the Netherlands and France, make up half of current global e-commerce volumes.  The research determined that the retail sector is becoming increasingly global and interconnected as trade between countries grows exponentially.

The latest research also uncovered that international consumers have a growing appetite for foreign goods and consistently use search tools to learn more about international brands.  More specifically, OC&C’s analysis found that international customers are turning to the U.S. for entertainment, electronics, fashion and general merchandise.  Brazil has demonstrated the most growth in international searches for U.S retailers at 42%, followed by Australia (39%), Mexico (38%) and Italy (37%).

While international sales for U.S. online retailers will only reach seven% of total volumes this year, OC&C’s analysis suggests that these numbers could more than double within the decade and could reach 16% by 2020.  This presents a tremendous opportunity for retailers of all scopes and sizes, who are looking to drive revenues by broadening their reach and expanding their presence outside of the United States.

Leading online retailers, such as eBay and Amazon, have had significant ecommerce market share across the largest international markets over the last several years, and reported that more than 50% of their sales are already coming from overseas.

“It’s not surprising that our analysis suggests that the largest, most popular U.S. retailers have a concentrated presence overseas. What is surprising is that for the first time our research reveals that smaller U.S. online pureplay retailers, such as Etsy and Snapfish, are demonstrating rapid international growth; Etsy has now reached the Top 10 most sought out U.S. retailers based on international searches,” said Rambaut Fairley at OC&C Strategy Consultants.  “This highlights the growing importance of the international opportunity and in order for U.S. retailers to keep pace with their competitors they all need to be thinking about growing their international customer base.”

OC&C’s research has determined that U.S. retailers, unlike many of their overseas peers, are leading the way in successfully internationalizing their ecommerce sites. Forty% of U.S. ecommerce brands have reported reaching more than 50 countries with their goods and services, and another 40% have designed their websites to specifically target Spanish-speaking and other local language customers.

“The global increase in the number of people with internet access, and their growing willingness to buy online, are both providing terrific conditions for e-commerce” said John McAteer, Vice President, U.S. Sales, Google. “The data on worldwide search activity demonstrates the international revenue opportunity for retailers that have a global online presence.”

By the end of the decade, U.S. retailers are expected to see significant volume coming from international sales, and OC&C’s analysis reveals important insights about the growth opportunity for international delivery between countries and the importance of creating a seamless shopping experience.  In order for U.S. brands to take advantage of the global opportunity they must focus on internationalizing their websites with multi-currency shopping, a broader variety of payment options and multilingual support.

David Sobie, Chief Marketing Officer at Revolve Clothing added, “internationalization is one of our three core growth strategies for 2013.  In order for us to compete in the global marketplace, we have to think international, without losing the essence of the brand.  Global shoppers continue to look for unique brands and products and for an experience that removes the difficulties and trust of shopping overseas.”