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eMarketer Releases New Report on Cross-Border Shopping in Asia-Pacific

Consumer habits vary widely by market

March 15, 2017

The individual countries across Asia-Pacific may share the same corner of the globe, but they have very different online shopping habits.

Digital Buyers in Select Countries in Asia-Pacific Who Make Domestic vs. Cross-Border Digital Purchases, Oct 2016 (% of respondents)

Goods from China have been playing a siren song for bargain-seeking, cross-border buyers around the world. Meanwhile, digital buyers in China are increasingly looking internationally for hard-to-find goods, and retailers are courting them.

In 2016, Alibaba partnered with merchants in multiple countries to sell on its many platforms, and Amazon.co.jp launched a Chinese-language site with lower shipping rates (Japan-based marketplace Rakuten already had a Chinese-language site).

According to PayPal and Ipsos data from October 2016, one-quarter of digital buyers in China made a cross-border purchase in the past 12 months. That figure was on par with India and Thailand and far more than Japan’s regional low of 4%, but behind Singapore’s regional high of 51%.

Cross-border buyers in China often shop in South Korea, and vice versa. However, cross-border buying in South Korea isn’t as robust.

According to data from Statistics Korea (KOSTAT), fashion and accessories is the top category purchased by cross-border buyers in the country. While the amount spent on that category rose 13.3% between Q4 2015 and Q4 2016, the overall share shrunk from 43.6% to 40.8%. Food and beverage and consumer electronics were also popular, cited by 20.6% and 12.5% of respondents, respectively.

Product Categories Purchased from Foreign Retail Sites by Cross-Border Digital Buyers in Select Countries in Asia-Pacific, Oct 2016 (% of respondents)

Meanwhile, India’s online retail development lags behind many countries in Asia-Pacific, and digital buyer penetration is low. In India, digital means mobile, so handheld devices will likely be key in swaying consumers to participate in cross-border ecommerce.

Clothing, footwear and accessories was the most likely category to be bought outside of India, purchased by 54% of respondents, according to the PayPal/Ipsos survey. Consumer electronics and cosmetics and beauty products came next and were favored in nearly equal measures (43% vs. 42%).

eMarketer estimates that Japan had the second highest digital buyer penetration rate in the world in 2016, with 82.5% of internet users making an online purchase regularly. But that activity is geared toward local merchants; Japan has one of the lowest cross-border buyer penetration rates in the world.

While there’s no question that Japan has low cross-border ecommerce penetration, exactly how low varies by source (the PayPal/Ipsos survey had a small base). It would be reasonable to believe less than one-third of digital buyers there have made a purchase on a foreign site, but perhaps not a rate as low as single digits.

These data points and hundreds of others come from a new eMarketer report that examines cross-border shopping in 16 markets around the world. Subscribers to eMarketer PRO can access the report here: “Cross-Border Ecommerce 2017: A Country-by-Country Look at Consumer Behavior and Trends.”

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Cross-Border Ecommerce 2017: A Country-by-Country Look at Consumer Behavior and Trends.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer PRO customers.


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