For the second year in a row the IPC has released a survey on cross-border shoppers. The IPC 2016 survey launched towards the end of the year, was based on quantitative research on more than 24,000 consumers across 26 countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and North America. It highlights the fact that today online shoppers want more information and reliability, with more delivery options, obviously for cheaper delivery costs. Online consumers also bought much more from their smartphones, using them to check the delivery progression of their parcels.

The International Post Corporation (IPC) is a cooperative association of 24 member postal operators worldwide and 180 postal services use its solutions. They have set quality standards to change international postal service for the better and implemented many cross-border e-commerce solutions for their members.

What are Cross-Border Consumers Preferences when it comes to E-Commerce?

While a general pattern emerges, consumer preferences in China differed a bit from other developed markets. Indeed Chinese consumers are more willing to shop online than consumers in other countries, with a third of its customers shopping online at least once a week. On this survey, the favorite device for online shopping was a laptop, then a desktop and finally a smartphone (which is becoming an increasingly more popular device to shop online, and even more for Chinese).

What are they buying and from where?

According to the survey, it comes as no surprise that a quarter of online cross-border products were purchased from China. The US comes in second place, followed by Germany and the UK. Concerning the top 3 websites cross-border consumers declared using the most in almost all countries, the result is what you could except. Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba represent 65% of the most recent cross-border purchases.
The top four categories of products that shoppers bought the most online in 2016 from cross-border point of view we find:

  • Clothing, footwear & apparel (the top choice for women)
  • Electronic devices (the top choice for men)
  • Books, music & media
  • Health & beauty

Weight: It appears that the vast majority of the order were packets (i.e less than 2kg) with the most common weight category being 200-500g. This is a little bit different for China where Chinese consumers seem to buy much heavier items than in all other countries.

Item value: People tend to buy anything online, from very cheap items to very expensive one but more than a third of cross-border purchases were announced to worth less than €25, with half of it costing less than €10. However, high-value purchases of €100 and more were apparently the more frequent in Luxembourg and Switzerland, two countries where the level of consumer income is high.

Concerning the payment method, it appears that PayPal or various local equivalents are the number one choice in half of the surveyed countries and is followed by credit card.

What are the Delivery Expectations of Cross-Border Shoppers?

The IPC 2016 survey confirms that most cross-border shoppers want to save money on shipping options. Free shipping is a must have in term of conversion, even better if free order tracking is provided (although consumers are apparently more willing to pay extra for tracking when it comes to cross-border goods). You should include free returns if you want to differentiate from other sellers as cross-border customers appreciate this option. People also expect you to be fair and transparent regarding the delivery costs upfront, which takes priority over delivery company choice.

If any improvement is to be made in order to match the cross-border shopper’s expectations, it is the possibility for them to choose a specific delivery date with 100% certainty, and for it to be absolutely respected. Concerning delivery speed, people tend to consider that a faster delivery time is normal for more valuable products.

Even though differences can appear of course, the “at home” delivery the option is the one cross-border shoppers tend to prefer worldwide, and even more in Japan. The IPC did a great job on mapping the average cross-border customer’s behaviors differences and similarities. You can find the full report following this link.

Results like the IPC survey provides are useful for your e-commerce in order to be succeed in the reach of your cross-border target market. Don’t hesitate to attend dedicated events (such as this week E-commerce Berlin Expo) and keep in touch with research that enlightens how you should adapt your offer from one country to another. It’s the key to a good cross-border experience for you customers.