Global Ecommerce and International Expansion | Pitney Bowes

The next frontier on shopping the world

For retailers and online marketplaces, advances in technology are continuing to connect the world’s economies in new ways, making it possible to embrace new channels to sell, compete and expand their footprint. Global ecommerce is also making it possible for consumers to purchase products across borders they can’t access in their own markets. 

While the opportunity remains significant -- eMarketer forecasts that global ecommerce sales will reach USD $3.5 trillion by 2019 – entering new markets is complex. Also, consumers are in the driver’s seat on when, where and how they find and purchase products.

To make international purchases not just possible, but probable for global ecommerce success, the consumer – what they want and how they like to shop – is a great place to start.

In a recent Pitney Bowes study we conducted with ORC International, which polled approximately 12,000 consumers in 12 countries, we found that while global shoppers share some similarities on how they find and buy products online, consumers have unique preferences and behaviours that vary by country. Global understanding is a must. However, by leveraging local nuances, brands and retailers can expand more rapidly to new markets and take advantage of even more growth opportunities. 

International shoppers agree on the basics on why they would buy products outside of their own country – 61 percent said price of products, 40 percent said availability, and 30 percent said quality and better selection (both 30 percent).

Common barriers also exist -- high shipping costs (64 percent), additional fees owed at time of delivery (48 percent) and product delivery taking too long (39 percent) topped the list.

Localisation is also a barrier. Thirty percent of global online shoppers said they would be discouraged from completing a purchase with merchants who do not offer their preferred form of payment, while 28 percent said not being able to read a product description because it is in a foreign language would be a deterrent. Twenty-seven percent of consumers said merchants not accepting credit cards and a quarter of shoppers (25 percent) said pricing not in my country’s local currency are deterrents.

How are consumers finding and buying products online?

For the majority of international shoppers, search engines lead as the preferred method (62 percent) to find products. Also, when consumers were asked what types of online sites they would consider purchasing from, 66 percent chose online marketplaces while 62 percent selected retailers’ web sites.

The subtle differences in attitude and behaviour among international consumers can create missteps and become obstacles to purchase. For instance, if you are trying to reach consumers in China, your mobile presence should take precedence. Plus, if you have Google Analytics embedded in your checkout, it’s not going to work in China. So, you really have to think about how your mobile experience comes across, not just as a blanket mobile platform for all countries, but for specific countries, taking into account localisation preferences in each market.

Consumers in China are also more likely to find and make purchases on online marketplaces. When asked about what type of online sites consumers in China would buy from, 76 percent said online marketplaces compared to 47 percent who said they would buy from retailers’ sites.

If you are expanding into India, you should not only have a mobile presence, you should also consider making social platforms part of your strategy. More than a third of consumers (38 percent) said they typically find products online through social media in our study. Also, when consumers in India were asked what types of online sites they would consider purchasing from 27 percent said social media sites, which was the highest in the study.

Finding the right partner can open up new frontiers

As the study illustrates, a “one-size-fits-all” approach won’t work for global online retailing. To succeed, retailers need to balance between the right product mix, competitive pricing and convenience, as well as the technology and infrastructure to support consumer demands in each market.

For retailers looking to go global, collaboration with the right partner will be critical in helping to deliver the end-to-end consumer experience that is expected by your shoppers. Working with solutions providers whose platforms are scalable and flexible enough to offer support across the consumer experience will help retailers increase speed-to-market and lower costs for the best online shopping experience. For consumers, retailers and online marketplaces the next frontier of global shopping is here.

Learn more by downloading the full 2015 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study.