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How Cross-Border Ecommerce Varies Worldwide

How and why shoppers worldwide buy on foreign ecommerce sites

February 8, 2016 | Retail & Ecommerce

Cross-border ecommerce varies country by country. In Europe, digital shoppers in stronger economies tend to shop domestically, while those on the other end of the spectrum look abroad for bargains. And while Canada and the US may be neighbors, they are hardly twins when it comes to digital buying.

Retailers Worldwide that Agree that Cross-Border Ecommerce Has Been Profitable, Aug 2015 (% of respondents)

A new eMarketer report, “Cross-Border Ecommerce 2016: A Country-by-Country Look at Consumer Behavior and Trends,” looked at digital cross-border buyer penetration rates, top product categories purchased and drivers and barriers to such ecommerce in 24 countries.

In the US, for example, digital buyers exhibit low levels of cross-border shopping. According to a the PayPal study conducted by Ipsos in October 2015, 22% of digital buyers in the US had made a cross-border purchase in the past 12 months, the lowest level of overseas buying behavior in the Americas.

The same Ipsos survey found that 67% of digital buyers in Canada had made a cross-border digital purchase in the past 12 months, one of the highest levels of overseas buying behavior in the Americas.

Digital Buyers in Select Countries in the Americas Who Make Digital Purchases Domestically vs. Cross-Border , Oct 2015 (% of respondents)

Asia-Pacific is fractured into very different shopping styles, with world-leading levels of cross-border buying in Australia, largely domestically focused consumers in Japan, and low digital buyer penetration overall in emerging markets like India.

Digital buying is widespread among internet users in Australia, with 79.4% of them expected to have to have made a digital purchase in 2015, eMarketer estimates, placing Australia fifth in the world by this measure. Cross-border ecommerce, too, is very popular, and it continues to appeal as shoppers look abroad for better prices online.

When it comes to digital buying behavior, Japan is a bit of an anomaly. In 2015, it had the second-highest digital buyer penetration rate in the world after the UK, with 82.0% of internet users making an online purchase last year, eMarketer estimates. But that activity remains very close to home; shoppers in Japan are some of the least likely of those in any developed country to buy on foreign sites.

And India has some of the lowest digital buyer penetration rates in the Asia-Pacific region. Just 8.9% of the population and 37.3% of internet users made a purchase via computer or mobile device in 2015, eMarketer estimates. Because of this, cross-border buying is still in its early stages there.

Cross-Border Digital Buyer Penetration in Brazil and Mexico, April 2015 (% of digital buyers)

Age can also often play a large role in a propensity for buying abroad. However, in Latin America social class and financial means often shape this digital shopping behavior to a stronger degree than in other regions.

April 2015 research by the Google and TNS found that 41% of digital buyers surveyed in Brazil made a cross-border digital purchase at least once a year. Digital buyers ages 25 to 34 (48%) and those under 25 (45%) were the most likely to do so.

This finding meshes with a January 2015 survey from the Serviço de Proteção ao Crédito (SPC Brasil) and personal finance site Meu Bolso Feliz that found cross-border buyers in Brazil tended to be younger: 45% were ages 18 to 34. Additionally, 48% were from socioeconomic class A and B (roughly equivalent to upper-middle and upper class), and 49% had post-graduate degrees.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Cross-Border Ecommerce 2016: A Country-by-Country Look at Consumer Behavior and Trends.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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