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E-commerce report: Cross-Border Consumer Research 2018

PayPal and Ipsos, have released a new e-commerce report the Cross-Border Consumer Research 2018. The report, which investigates the online shopping habits of approximately 34,000 consumers in 31 countries, reveals a healthy e-marketplace.

More overseas shoppers are buying online from UK businesses than any other nation in Europe, with British goods in high demand among foreign shoppers. The global study found that 1 in 7 (14%) of global online shoppers have bought goods from the UK in the past 12 months.

Online and cross-border commerce size and growth estimates

The next popular destination in Europe is Germany, with 1 in 10 (10%) global e-commerce shoppers buying from this country. Europe’s top 5 online exporters are:

  1. UK
  2. Germany
  3. France
  4. Italy
  5. Netherlands

The US is the largest export market for UK e-commerce businesses. Shoppers from the US bought an estimated £12.5 billion worth of goods from the UK in the past 12 months – more than any previous year.

China has been identified as another key market for UK online businesses, buying an estimated £5.7 billion worth of products in the past 12 months.

The new research also reveals the importance of European markets to British exports, with cross-border shoppers in France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden all choosing the UK as one of the ‘top 3’ countries to buy from. 

Incidence of online cross-border shopping

Why do consumers shop abroad?

The main reason why shoppers buy from foreign countries is to seek a bargain, with 7 in 10 (72%) respondents who shop cross-border indicating that they buy from other countries because of cheaper prices.

The fall in the pound following the EU referendum, PayPal’s data suggests, has made UK goods even more attractive. Other reasons why consumers shop online internationally rather than in their own country include:

  • Because certain products are not available in their own country (49%)
  • To discover new and interesting products (34%)
  • Because product quality is higher from overseas (29%)
  • Because shipping costs are affordable (24%) 

What are consumers buying?

Globally, clothing is the most popular category for cross-border e-commerce purchases, with 7 in 10 (68%) of online cross-border shoppers buying clothes from other countries in the past year. Other popular products include:

  • Consumer electronics (53%)
  • Toys and hobbies (53%)
  • Jewellery and watches (51%)
  • Cosmetics and beauty products (46%) 

What channels do consumers use for shopping?

The majority of online purchases are still made via desktop or laptop – but smartphone shopping is fast catching up. Across Europe and the US, the proportion of smartphone purchases has almost doubled since 2016, with the UK’s top export markets of US and China frequently shopping on their mobiles.

In the US, 61% of cross-border shoppers have made an online purchase in the past 12 months via smartphone, whilst in China this figure is 84% – the highest of all markets surveyed.

The majority of cross-border purchases are still on a computer

Nicola Longfield, director of small business at PayPal UK, said: “As growth in the UK economy remains modest, it’s time for all British businesses to open their doors to the international shopper.

“International shopping is increasing at a rapid pace, and this study highlights the small adjustments that businesses can make to capture more global sales. If you set a border around your business, you are simply putting a limit on your sales.

“Shoppers from Austria to Australia, Belgium to Brazil have all bought from UK online businesses in the past 12 months. With the UK punching above its weight and leading Europe when it comes to global e-commerce, we hope that other businesses are encouraged to sell their products online and overseas.”

Barriers for consumers who shop online

A quarter of global cross-border shoppers (25%) cited shipping costs as the top barrier to buying from international websites; whilst half of online shoppers said that they would not feel comfortable buying from a foreign website in a different language (57%) or paying in foreign currency (47%).

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