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Cross-Border Buyers Favor Global Platforms

Clothing, footwear and apparel was the most popular category purchased worldwide

The behavior of digital shoppers worldwide who use foreign sites to make purchases differs by country—even within the same region—but there are some commonalities.

A recent International Post Corporation study, which surveyed cross-border buyers in 31 countries in October 2017, found that clothing, footwear and apparel was the most purchased category overall among respondents (30%), followed by consumer electronics (19%) and beauty products (14%).

Regional quirks emerged, such as health and beauty products being the leading items bought by shoppers in China (42%) and South Korea (34%). Also, baby products are a much more popular category in China than the worldwide average: 20% vs. 5%, mostly due to ongoing problems with infant formula counterfeiting. This same cautious logic likely applies to vitamins and health supplements, where buyers have greater trust in foreign brands than domestic ones.

On average, marketplaces are where cross-border buyers make purchases, which makes sense because these are reputable global platforms. It’s far more likely a shopper would turn to Amazon rather than take chance on an unfamiliar retailer or brand site. According to the International Post Corporation survey, 25% of cross-border digital buyers worldwide made their most recent purchase on Amazon, followed by eBay (18%) and Alibaba/AliExpress (14%). 

Despite Amazon ranking higher than Alibaba, a majority (65%) of respondents cited China as the country from which they made their most recent cross-border purchase. It’s also notable that Wish, a relatively new app that sources low-priced goods from China, secured 8% of the global share. Buyers on overseas sites are often motivated by price, so China has the edge in this regard.

It’s no secret that marketplaces are the place to be to reach foreign shoppers. In an annual survey of retail professionals worldwide by Payvision and Juniper Research, 23% of respondents said the online domination of marketplaces was the biggest gamechanger for cross-border ecommerce in 2017. Mcommerce, which ranked first for the past three years, dropped to fourth place, cited by 9%.

And selling internationally seems to be paying off. A full 81% of respondents in the Payvision/Juniper Research study agreed that cross-border ecommerce has been profitable.