In an effort to better understand global purchasing behavior in cross-border ecommerce, researchers questioned over 9000 respondents in 17 countries and territories, as well as conducted interviews with small-and-medium businesses with cross-border operations.
With online buying behavior currently representing over $1 trillion in sales per year and forecasted to nearly double in the next four years according to Forrester Research data, the findings of the paper, “Seizing The Cross-Border Opportunity,” are revealing. Clothing and apparel are the most popular online purchase, along with books, electronics and cosmetics. The study also found a significant part of ecommerce shopping globally involves cross-border shipments.
“This research provides deep insight into the priorities and preferences of global online customers and highlights how small and mid-sized retailers can better take advantage of the cross-border opportunity,” said Raj Subramaniam, executive vice president, Global Marketing, FedEx. “Knowledge about both the cultural similarities and differences in geographic markets can help businesses gain real online retail advantage.”
Some 82% of global respondents report making an online purchase from a merchant outside their home country. These rates vary minimally across regions from a high of 90% of Canadians reporting purchasing cross-border compared to a low of 59% of Japanese. On average, these customers reported spending about $300 on cross-border items a year.
The study shows that primary online shopping destinations are the US, China and the UK. While shoppers indicated purchasing cross-border from all 17 international markets included in the study, the US, China and the UK were the top three exporters of online purchases.
Some 91% of Canadians who responded reported making their cross-border purchases from the US, with Latin American shoppers sourcing from the US as well, including 68% of Brazilians who responded. Europeans have a tendency to order within the EU, although UK businesses ship primarily to the US and Australia. Shoppers in Japan and Korea stated they purchase more frequently from the US than they do from their APAC neighbors.
Cross-border shoppers prefer to purchase from well-known major multi-brand retailers and global online marketplaces. In fact, the majority of respondents in every country surveyed ranked major multi-brand online retailers or marketplaces as their first choice out of five business types for cross-border purchases. The findings indicate an effective way for SME retailers to enter the global arena is through online marketplaces.
The study finds that duties and taxes curb cross-border activity. While shipping cost and delivery time are top of mind with shoppers, over a third of global respondents cited high duties/taxes as a concern for cross-border shopping.
The impact of duties and taxes was even more pronounced when researchers explored creating a standard duty free threshold. If all online purchases under $200 USD (localized) were duty free, 56% of global respondents would increase their cross-border shopping.
Regionally, the hypothetical limit had the greatest impact on Latin American shoppers, with 80% of those respondents predicting an increase in their cross-border shopping. At the country level, 71% of respondents in India and 80% respondents in China indicated the same.
“The results of this study on global trends suggests that streamlining regulations by harmonizing duty free limits across the globe could result in a significant uptick in cross-border trade, benefitting consumers and businesses around the world,” said David Cunningham, chief operating officer & president, international, FedEx Express.