Global Ecommerce and International Expansion | Pitney Bowes

Three takeaways from the 2015 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study

By Gregg Zegras, Senior VP Sales, Global Ecommerce, Pitney Bowes

It’s a big world out there, full of potential customers for your retail business. A global ecommerce strategy can undoubtedly be worth the investment, given worldwide consumers’ growing acceptance of cross-border purchasing.

But to succeed on a global scale, merchants need to understand the needs, interests and expectations of their potential customers. That means knowing not only what they want to buy, but how and where they prefer to purchase. And most importantly, be responsive to their biggest concerns: price, selection, shipping and security.

The 2015 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study set out to provide meaningful data to merchants’ most pressing questions about their customers. Our second annual study surveyed around 12,000 consumers in 12 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – to provide retailers validated information on the buying habits and preferences of online shoppers around the world.

The study brought many interesting data points to light – here are three major takeaways:

1. More consumers are buying cross-border

Naturally, we wanted to chart how comfortable consumers are with shopping online and making cross-border purchases. And in 2015 we noticed continued growth in the number of buyers who were aware of their cross-border options. This year, only six percent of respondents said they believed they could only shop online from merchants who were in-country – down from 8 percent last year.

We also wanted to understand the motivating factors that either drive consumers to or away from shopping cross-border. The upshot? Pricing of goods and the promise of low shipping were ranked as top factors. Conversely, slow, costly delivery and surprising fees turn international consumers away from considering foreign retailers. Net/net, more consumers are comfortable with buying cross-border, as long as the experience is enjoyable.

2. Mobile, social channels rising in importance

Additionally, we wanted to know how consumers prefer to search for products when cross-border shopping. Most respondents (62 percent) said they rely on search engines to find goods, while 44 percent visit retailers’ websites directly and 16 percent use social media. Social networks are especially popular among Indian Brazilian and Chinese customers.

Online marketplaces like eBay were the preferred purchase destination and not surprisingly, mobile platforms are increasingly gaining relevance with 24 percent of worldwide respondents using a mobile device or a mix of devices to make their purchases.

3. Global ecommerce requires a nuanced approach

Finally, we wanted to understand the factors that turn an enjoyable online shopping experience into a bad one. Ultimately we found that while there are certain factors that consumers desire across the board – convenience, affordability, transparency into costs and shipping expectations – the truth is that the global ecommerce landscape is different region-by-region.

Buyers in one country might be much more comfortable purchasing products on a mobile device than those in another. And while you might be able to gain traction in some countries with a retail strategy that incorporates social media, consumers in other countries might completely ignore your social strategy. And some customers might never buy from your retail website because you don’t offer their preferred form of payment (a problem for 30 percent of respondents) or information in their native language (29 percent).

These are just a few potential pitfalls but they don’t have to derail your global ecommerce strategy. As our survey underscores, success on a worldwide scale is possible when you don’t take on the one size fits all approach. If you understand the distinctions that differentiate your potential buyers, and address and respect those needs and expectations, your cross-border global ecommerce strategy can quickly take off building a new and loyal customer base.

To learn more about the buying preferences of global buyers, download the full 2015 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study report.