Multiple Factors Vital To Improving International Online Shopping Satisfaction

Retailers are providing U.S. shoppers with incentives such as discounts and free shipping to increase purchases through their e-Commerce sites but can improve offerings to draw more international shoppers. Multiple factors including price, product assortment, the checkout process, shipping options, and added costs affect international online purchase rates, according to new global e-Commerce research from Pitney Bowes, Inc.

In an online survey of 10,000 respondents, Pitney Bowes analyzed the shopping habits and preferences of consumers from Australia, Brazil Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the U.K. and U.S. The “Global Online Shopping Survey,” conducted by global market research firm ORC International, was developed to help retailers better understand the online buying behaviors of cross-border shoppers, according to Craig Reed, VP of e-Commerce solutions for Pitney Bowes.

“We developed the study primarily to help our customers understand their buyers,” Reed said. “It’s the law of retail: The more you understand your buyer, the better you’re going to do. Not everyone can be painted with the same brush, so you have to understand local customs and preferences.”


A vast majority (93%) of international consumers have completed a purchase online, while 49% bought via web within a 30-day period, according to the survey. In an effort to pinpoint similarities and differences among shopping behaviors, the survey spotlighted four vital factors consistent across countries: competitive prices (71%); a broad selection of products (42%); seamless checkout processes (35%); and low shipping, duties and tax costs (35%). With this information on hand, retailers can alter online offerings and marketing initiatives to better appeal to international shoppers.

“Retailers shouldn’t look at their international shoppers as a ‘by the way,’” noted Reed. “These consumers need to be addressed in a localized, personal way. However, with localization come cross-border shipments that are subject to duties and taxes. Several of these fees remain hidden until after a purchase is completed. The advice we give our retailers is to welcome international shoppers as soon as they enter the e-Commerce site to show they can provide language translation, currency services, and showcase any additional fees before purchases.”

Across all countries, the majority (67%) of consumers indicated that high shipping cost was the leading factor preventing them from completing an online purchase. Additional fees at time of delivery, such as duties and taxes (47%) and inefficient delivery time (39%) shortly followed as top disincentives.

Email, Direct Mail Preferred Marketing Channels For International Shoppers
Despite the rise of interactive marketing channels such as mobile and social media, 59% of survey respondents worldwide said email was their preferred channel for receiving retailer news updates, coupons and marketing messages. Traditional mail such as catalogs was favored by 25% of respondents, while text-message marketing and social media each were preferred by only 4% of consumers.

“The results regarding catalogs are not surprising,” Reed stated. “Internationally, people receive only one or two catalogs week, making them more of a coffee table item, while in the U.S., people get an influx of catalogs every day and just throw them out. Because they’re a novelty, catalogs tend to be more effective with international buyers. For example, retailers including Land’s End, L.L. Bean and Victoria’s Secret have done really well internationally with their catalogs.” 

The consistent rise of smartphone adoption has led to the development of social media and numerous mobile marketing activities such as text-message marketing and applications. In turn, retailers can reach shoppers worldwide with personalized and engaging messages. But because retailers are still unsure of optimal execution, these initiatives may not be as influential to shoppers worldwide, according to Reed. “Overall, mobile is still in its infancy,” he said. “Not many retailers have determined how to leverage those channels yet. They also tend to be very private channels, so there is a trust issue among international consumers; A retailer simply can’t invade that space without being invited first.”

Results of the study also revealed that consumers worldwide primarily turned to the web to purchase entertainment such as books, videos and music (58%) and computer hardware and software (41%). Overall, apparel (29%), footwear (20%) and jewelry/watches/accessories (13%) had lower purchase rates. “There are some cultural elements to these findings, as well as consumers’ general access to certain goods,” Reed said. “If consumers are used to having ready access to clothing stores then they grow accustomed to browsing online and buying in store. If shoppers don’t have access to those products or experience with brick-and-mortar stores then they’re more predisposed to buying online. It’s a combination of availability of alternatives in a local market and general access to global brands.”

However, with the development of new technology such as digital sizing charts, consumers can obtain information easily while browsing the web while retailers increase customer confidence and satisfaction. “The theme is knowing your customers and their preferences, sizes and buying behaviors, then delivering marketing messages and recommended items that make sense to them,” Reed noted. “Shoppers must feel confident that they’re getting what they want, paying what they should and getting products delivered efficiently. In the brick-and-mortar experience, shoppers can touch and feel goods before buying. If e-Tailers can emulate that form of experience, the better off they’ll be.”

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