Many shoppers that discover a brand visiting their offline store while travelling abroad, continue to buy online with that brand when back home. This phenomenon, baptized as “In-store Global. Online Local” is one of the cross-border drivers revealed by the latest research by Pitney Bowes in the third annual Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Survey.
Today’s consumers have the power of choice, whether choosing to shop online direct to a retailer website or an online marketplace, and the study shows that consumers like it that way. In fact, while consumers may have a preference for one channel over the other, very few shop exclusively through one online channel.
66% shop cross border
The research finds that cross-border ecommerce has become prevalent among consumers around the world. It’s no surprise that consumers frequently make domestic online purchases (94%), however more than two-thirds (66%) of consumers that have ever made a domestic online purchase have also made an online purchase from another country in the past year. Singapore (89%), Australia (86%) and Hong Kong (85%) have the highest number of cross-border shoppers, while countries like Japan (34%) and the U.S. (45%) are still growing in cross-border confidence.
Marketplaces vs direct sales
Approximately half of consumers say that all or most of their online shopping, whether domestic or cross-border, is through an online marketplace. The top countries in which shoppers choose all or most of their cross-border marketplace purchases are Japan (70%), China (61%), Germany (59%) and India (55%). About a quarter of global shoppers choose the retailer’s direct site for all or most of their cross-border shopping. The top direct-to-retail countries are Canada (35%), South Korea (34%) and Australia (33%). The remaining shoppers shop both marketplaces and retailers with no leading preference. This suggests that retailers should consider a broad presence and multiple channels to reach global shoppers.
Getting the Basics Right Still Matters
The need for choice was also evident with regard to payment types. While survey results varied by country, no one payment option was chosen by a majority of cross-border shoppers. Credit cards (45%) were the most preferred method of payment online. E-wallets, which allow consumers to store multiple payment accounts in one place (i.e. PayPal, Alipay), were identified as another popular payment method (34%) for cross-border purchases. Choice again proved to be a crucial theme, as limiting options for payment alienates a significant number of would-be consumers. When asked about the most important factors in selecting a payment option, consumers cited service fees/total cost of purchase (33%), value of the purchase (25%), and offer of a purchase protection plan (25%) as the most important considerations when selecting a payment option.
Shipping and returns
Online shipping and returns continue to be a major pain point for consumers, despite merchants’ efforts to improve their shipping and returns processes. When asked about holiday shopping, 42 percent of consumers say they experienced related challenges when shopping online for the 2015 holiday season. In fact, even the most basic elements of the customer experience, such as shipping the right item; accuracy in address and tracking; a transparent returns policy; and proper duty and tax were all cited as challenges. Hong Kong (65%), India (59%), South Korea (55%), Singapore and China (both 54%) were among the countries experiencing the greatest headaches with online shopping during the 2015 holiday season. Even in the U.S., almost a third of consumers (31%) reported experiencing challenges during last year’s holiday shopping season, putting the pressure on retailers and marketplaces to make significant improvements in the consumer experience heading into this holiday.