New research: More than half of online shoppers now buy cross-border, but 92% still worry


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: New research: More than half of online shoppers now buy cross-border, but 92% still worry.

New research suggests 52% of US and UK online shoppers have purchased at least one product from an ecommerce store in another country in the last 12 months – and a further 23% have considered it, with the desire for lower prices being the most popular trigger.

However, 92% admit to concerns about shopping cross-border, with ecommerce returns problems (50%) and fears over products being poor quality (47%) or fake (46%) among the top worries.

The survey of 2,000 consumers was commissioned by Nosto, the Commerce Experience Platform. It reveals that the majority (60%) of respondents trust international ecommerce stores less than those at home. And 71% are less likely to give them a second chance following a poor purchase experience compared to domestic stores.

Consumers’ main worries when ordering products from ecommerce stores in other countries
I won't be able to return the products easily
The quality of the products will be poor
The products could turn out to be fakes
My order won't arrive on time/or at all
My online payment information will be insecure/could be stolen

Even when they see products they like, a number of factors will deter people from making cross-border purchases. Number one is products being priced suspiciously low (44%) followed by a lack of clear information about additional cross-border fees/charges (41%), returns/refund policies (41%) and no clear details about delivery times to the shopper’s country (39%). 

What deters consumers from cross-border purchases (even if they see products they like)
If the prices are suspiciously cheap compared to prices at home
If I can’t see a clear returns / refunds policy displayed
If the site doesn’t make it clear if I’ll have to pay additional duties/taxes/fees
The site doesn't give a clear time for delivery to my country that I can find easily
The site has poor language translations
The site doesn’t accept the payment method I usually prefer to use
The site doesn’t list the price in my home currency


How online retailers can win the trust of cross-border shoppers

“At Nosto we’re seeing increasing interest from merchants looking to sell cross-border into many markets around the world - and while this research suggests that many consumers are open to it, a lack of trust remains a significant barrier,” said Matthäus Bognar General Manager EMEA & APAC at Nosto. “If you’re a retailer trying to sell into an international market, you must provide absolute clarity about all aspects of the purchase, delivery and returns process – including detailing any additional fees and local taxes - as well as providing strong localized social proof.

This includes displaying user-generated content (UGC) like reviews and product photos from customers in the shopper’s own country - a powerful signal of trust. Delivering a familiar online experience is also crucial, ensuring currencies, delivery times and product recommendations are based on the shopper’s location.”

Nosto’s research highlights the three key areas that merchants should focus on to build trust with cross-border shoppers. 

  • First, make key information visible and accessible on their websites. 69% of survey respondents say stores can increase trust by making policies about returns/refunds and additional cross-border taxes/duties clear and easy to find. 65% said they’d have more trust if there was a customer support telephone number in their home country.  

  • Second, provide localized social proof. 64% of consumers say they’re likely to trust brands more if they see positive onsite reviews from other customers in their country and 55% if they see onsite product photos (user-generated content) from peers in their home country who’ve made purchases. Similarly, 52% said they’re more likely trust brands based in other countries if they’re active and mentioned positively on social media channels they use and (43%) if their products are mentioned positively by influencers they follow 

  • Third, enhance trust with on-site localization to smooth the shopping experience. This includes automatically showing prices in the shopper’s home currency (mentioned by 64% of respondents) and recommending relevant products based on the shoppers’ location (40%). 
Factors that increase consumer trust in an ecommerce store in another country
The website has clear, easy-to-find information about returns/refunds and additional taxes/duties I'll have to pay
The website includes a customer support telephone number in my country 
The website includes positive reviews from other customers in my home country
The website automatically shows prices in my home currency 
The website displays product photos from other real customers who have made purchases (user-generated content) from my country
The company is active and mentioned positively on social media channels I use
I regularly see the company's ads online
The company's products are mentioned positively by influencers I follow
The website is able to automatically recommend relevant products that I might like based on my location


Lower prices are the biggest reason for cross-border purchases

While consumers are suspicious if prices are too low, the desire to find cheaper products remains the key driver for those who have considered cross-border buys. 41% of those who have purchased or considered buying items from abroad in the last year said it was to get lower prices versus 16% who were seeking better quality products. 

In fact, over half (53%) agree that rising prices at home mean they’re more likely to look for products that might be more affordable in other countries. Worryingly, 29% didn’t mind buying fake/counterfeit brand name products if they’re available cheaper from an online store abroad, rising to 45% for Generation Z (16–24-year-olds).

Other reasons for considering cross-border purchases include the desire for unique or unusual products (33%) or products not available at home (31%). Almost a quarter (23%) said it was because they’d seen particular products on social media—for Generation Z (16-24-year-olds), this rises to a third (33%), making it the number one trigger for cross-border purchases for this age group.  

Biggest triggers for considering cross-border purchases (all consumers)

  • To get products at lower prices (41%)
  • To get products that are unique or unusual (33%)
  • To get brands/products I can’t easily get at home (31%)
  • To take advantage of a special discount or offer (31%)
  • To get products I have seen mentioned on social media (23%)
  • To get products that I feel are better quality abroad than I can get at home (16%)

The US and UK marketing push by Chinese ecommerce marketplaces is clearly driving interest. Over half (54%) of all consumers surveyed agreed that they’d heard of online marketplaces such as Temu and AliExpress and would consider ordering from them if they had products they were interested in.

At the same time, there’s an awareness of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors related to cross-border ecommerce. Over two-thirds (67%) of survey respondents agreed they would not make a purchase from an ecommerce store in another country if they heard it was linked to factories with forced labor or poor working conditions. 49% agreed that they were concerned about ordering products online from far-flung destinations because of the environmental impact of transporting them.

Nosto’s research found that Fashion & Accessories (70%), Sporting Goods & Hobbies (57%) and Health & Beauty (55%) are the products cross-border shoppers are most likely to consider ordering from abroad. 

What cross-border shoppers are most likely to buy online from another country
Fashion & Accessories
Sporting Goods & Hobbies
Health & Beauty
Electronics & Computing
Home & Garden
Food & Drinks

About the research

Nosto commissioned international market research consultancy, Censuswide, to conduct the research. The survey was based on a nationally representative sample of 2,000 respondents across the UK and the US. The data was collected between 15.04.2024 and 30.04.2024. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct and ESOMAR principles. Censuswide is also a member of the British Polling Council.

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