E-commerce has gone global, but each country still has unique behaviours and preferences: Study

New global e-commerce research from Pitney Bowes reveals that “one-size does not fit all” when it comes to consumers’ online shopping preferences around the world.

While international shoppers share some characteristics, the survey reveals key differences among consumers in many countries. Accordingly, retailers looking to expand their businesses online to international markets should “consider the unique consumer shopping behaviors and preferences in each country.”

Polling firm ORC International surveyed 10,000 adults across 10 countries and found that online shopping is a truly global habit. Overall, 93% of consumers polled have purchased products online, with 49% doing so during the last 30 days. In Canada, online shopping is least prevalent, but still 82% reported having bought goods online. 

The survey also found that international shoppers want four basic things when purchasing products online: competitive prices (71%); a broad selection of products (42%); easy, intuitive checkout (35%); and low costs for shipping, duties, and taxes (35%). 

Price of products was the most important consideration for purchasing products online in all 10 countries.  However, other consumer preferences varied by country.  For example, Canada cared very little about accurate delivery date estimates compared with Asia—only 10% of Canadians felt it was important, compared to 20%+ elsewhere.

“Given today’s economic situation, international e-commerce is becoming even more enticing as U.S. products are becoming more attractive and affordable for international buyers,” said Jay Oxton, president of mail services, Pitney Bowes.  “However, to be successful, retailers need to ensure they can offer a simple and seamless online shopping experience, and have a clear understanding of consumers’ purchasing, shipping and communications preferences in each market.”

The study also showed significant differences in why the consumers surveyed abandon online shopping carts.  High shipping costs (67%), additional fees at time of delivery such as duties and taxes (47%), and the delivery time (39%) were the top disincentives to complete purchases online.

The survey also revealed insight on what types of products international consumers are more likely to purchase online than in a brick-and-mortar store.  Top product categories for online purchases included books, videos and music (58%), computer hardware and software (41%), and consumer electronics (38%).

When asked about preferences for receiving information on new products, promotions or other offers from retailers, 59% of global consumers indicated they prefer e-mail communications.  25% of respondents said they prefer to receive this information in catalogs and direct mail. Just 4% of respondents prefer to receive information via text messaging, and social media channels (Facebook and Twitter). 

Looking at all 10 countries, consumers in Canada had the second-highest preference for receiving information in catalogs and direct mail (32%; Australia at 33%).