Exchange rates change minds

A stronger dollar drives second thoughts among cross-border consumers

As we found in a BOXpoll article last month, cross-border ecommerce transactions with US brands have increased since the start of the pandemic—and those international shoppers largely plan to continue or increase their cross-border purchasing after the pandemic ends. The combination of higher online transactions during the pandemic coupled with a weak dollar was a boon to US retailers selling cross-border. That said, the rising value of the US dollar has likely been raining on the cross-border shopping party this year. Compared to January 2019, the value of the US dollar (indexed against the currencies of the seven countries we surveyed) has trended higher during the first half of 2021.

As a result, cross-border consumers have recently been more price sensitive. When we asked shoppers for the reasons they abandon cross-border shopping carts, product & shipping price were at or near the top of the list. That said—keep in mind price sensitivity here is relative: cross-border consumers are generally shopping for premium products that are hard-to-find locally, meaning the typical cart value is significantly higher than domestic (outside of marketplaces, where the product listing is likely to be commoditized).

cross border

The marketplace exception is why we see Chinese and, to a slightly lesser degree, South Korean consumers being the most sensitive; in these countries where marketplaces dominate ecommerce, brands’ products are likely listed by multiple sellers who, because they can’t compete on product, compete primarily on price and shipping speed. Other takeaways:

  • Reasons for cart abandonment generally fall into three categories: price/convenience tradeoffs, localization, and trust.
  • The price/convenience tradeoff is the most prevalent driver of abandonment. Consumers believe, based on domestic shipping expectations (tempered by an understanding of geography, of course), that shipping should be relatively fast. See our recent BOXpoll post on perceptions of speed to understand what consumers in each country define as “fast” and “acceptable” shipping.
    • Aside from China & South Korea (see the marketplace point above), French consumers seem to have the highest expectations around delivery speed. 74% in France cite this as a reason they abandon purchases, vs 64-68% for other non-Asian countries, including Australia.
    • Inconvenient or expensive returns are an issue for 80% of Chinese consumers—significantly higher than other countries—while German consumers are the least likely to be perturbed by the cost of returns.
  • Localization issues were second most prevalent out of the three broader categories of cart abandonment
    • The two top issues here—lack of clarity on availability of cross-border shipping and prices not being listed in the consumers home currency—are surprising, primarily because they are simple fixes for retailers.
    • A clearly-stated shipping policy—or better, a ‘welcome mat’ message triggered based on visitor origin—can be a simple way to avoid the confusion consumers have as to whether a site offers cross-border shipping.
    • Currency conversion is now a common feature on major ecommerce platforms—and easy to implement if you don’t have it using solutions such as our own Cross-border Retail solution.
  • Trust is a critical factor, but as our recent BOXpoll post on consumer perceptions uncovered, US brands have regained some standing among cross-border shoppers in the past year—resulting in ‘trust’ being the least consequential of the three categories of cart abandonment.
    • That said, the trust-related issues consumers selected are tactical and eminently addressable: offering a Delivery Duties Paid (DDP) shipping option, paired with accurate duty & tax calculation and utilization of trusted last-mile carriers. All features prioritized in services such as our own Cross-border Delivery and Quoting solutions.
  • The least consequential issues stem from countries that are most like the US: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the UK. In these markets, issues plaguing Chinese/Korean shoppers such as offering familiar payment methods, checkout processes similar to domestic sites and recognizable delivery carriers are less likely to cause consumers to jump ship.
  • Among US consumers buying from the UK: shoppers are less price-sensitive about shipping cost (likely due to higher value of goods being purchased in the UK, and the growing value of the US dollars) and more patient with deliveries than shoppers in international markets.


BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult // 1,000 respondents per country in 7 countries were surveyed July-November 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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