UK sees dramatic slump in EU and international purchases


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A new survey has revealed UK online shoppers purchased far less items overseas over the past year due to EU customs and border concerns.

The research of more than 7,800 consumers - 1,003 of which were based in the UK - as part of the annual Sendcloud E-commerce Delivery Compass showed 31% of UK consumers shopped internationally in 2021, down 14% in just a year.

EU issues were so bad that UK consumers said they would rather shop as far as China (42%) and the US (30%) than closer neighbours Germany (10%), Italy (7%), or Spain (6%).

This is in stark contrast to EU shoppers, as 56% of European consumers said they like to shop internationally - just 5% less than in 2020.

The UK remains one of the top five countries EU consumers buy online from however, with 16% of consumers having ordered from the UK in the past 12 months.

UK consumers increasingly reported cross-border shipping concerns over the past 12 months, with expensive delivery costs (62%), potential payment of customs charges (49%), and poor returns policies (47%) all increasing in 2021 as the main reasons to not shop abroad.

In 2020, 51% of UK consumers cited delivery costs as a significant turn off for international shopping and 38% for both customs charges and returns issues, highlighting the increased barriers created by Brexit.

The report specifically found a lack of spending in Europe as EU custom surcharges, Brexit-related delivery delays and Covid-related shortages of products continue to put consumers off.

Brexit has resulted in a huge boundary to ship across borders, with reports in July 2021 showing imports from the EU had remained flat while global imports rose by 19%.

Similar data supplied by Sendcloud in April 2021 showed new shipping requirements and additional VAT charges had halved the number of shipments from the EU to the UK in the first three months of 2021.

“Customers want a seamless transaction and delivery process, but the survey shows there are still plenty of barriers stopping UK consumers from shopping abroad,” said Rob van den Heuvel, co-founder and CEO at Sendcloud.

“It’s important for both UK and EU retailers to streamline their international shipping or risk leaving money on the table. Delivery has become a vital aspect for retailers as consumers have come to expect everything from free returns to same-day delivery as standard. 

“Being able to partner with international and local shipping providers that can get a parcel from A to B in the quickest and most convenient way possible will be key to realising a successful post-Brexit environment,” van den Heuvel concluded.

Research Methodology

The E-commerce Delivery Compass was conducted by Nielsen among 7,873 participants from 8 European countries (Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom) in June 2021. The full report provides insight into the newest trends in e-commerce logistics. 

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