What is the universal language? Some may say love, while others may say math, science or money. But who would have guessed . . . online shopping?
According to recent research from service provider Pitney Bowes Inc, online shopping is a global habit, with 93 percent of consumers in ten different countries making online purchases, and 49 percent doing so within the last month.
The countries that were studied include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. The findings reveal that although some aspects of online shopping may differ culturally, the hobby is truly international, and is continuing to grow even further with the rise of better technology.
For merchants that are considering going global, the first question should be, "Which country is next?" Retailers may find that the most success could come from Germany, South Korea or the U.K., which are the top countries for online purchasing at 98 percent. However, even Canada – the country with the least amount of online shoppers – may not be a bad choice, since research shows that four out of every five of the country's consumers (82 percent) make online purchases.
Additionally, one of the biggest standouts from the survey came from China, where consumers are actually more likely to make purchases online than in-stores for every category other than computer hardware and software and jewelry and accessories.
Internationally Wanted Features
How can merchants make their site internationally friendly? By following best practices, because statistics reveal that international shoppers expect four basic things from e-commerce sites: 71 percent want competitive prices, 42 percent desire a broad selection of products, 35 percent simply hope for an easy checkout as well as low shipping and taxing costs.
Although all of the previously stated features are important to online shoppers, the weight of the importance significantly varies depending on the country that the consumer is from. The ease and speed of online checkouts is more important to consumers in Germany and South Korea at 59 percent, while the French, at 37 percent, are more interested in the ability to track an order. Furthermore, 20 percent of consumers in China and South Korea desire accurate delivery-date estimates, while 36 percent of Chinese consumers also want a clear and easy-to-understand return policy.
And while shopping may be an international hobby, cultural differences require specific types of communication, depending on the country. The study reveals that more than half (59 percent) of consumers still think that e-mail is the king of business-to-consumer communication. However, 25 percent would rather receive information or promotions in catalogs or through direct mail, and 4 percent prefer text messages and social media.
Brazilian consumers, at 72 percent, prefer email communications, while Australians (33 percent) have the highest preference of receiving information through catalogs and direct mail, followed by Germany (31 percent) and the U.S. (30 percent). Furthermore, South Koreans prefer text messaging at 13 percent, followed by Japan (12 percent) and China (9 percent). Social media communications is mostly wanted by the Chinese at 11 percent, followed by Brazil and South Korea at 5 percent apiece.
Other noteworthy statistics for merchants include reasons for shopping cart abandonment, such as high shipping costs (67 percent), additional fees (47 percent) and delivery time (39 percent), as well as a list of the top online product categories that include books, videos and music (58 percent), computer hardware and software (41 percent) and consumer electronics (38 percent).
“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,” says 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.”
This study shows that e-tailers should be thinking big. According to these statistics, global domination is definitely not out of reach – it is actually just a few clicks away.