Global e-commerce survey reveals consumers’ online shopping habits

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Software, hardware and mailstream supplier Pitney Bowes has released the findings of a study highlighting differences and similarities in online buying behaviour across developed economies and emerging markets.

According to the company, the results are designed to help retailers expand their business online to international markets.

The company surveyed 10,000 consumers in 10 different countries: the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the US.

It found Germany, the UK and Japan have the most frequent online shoppers.

The study found even though 93% of all respondents had shopped online in the past, when asked if they had bought items via the web in the last 30 days, Germans were the most frequent shoppers with 66% of consumers having done so. This was followed closely by the UK (65%) and Japan (65%). The least frequent were those in Canada with only 31%, South Korea (35%) and China (38%).

The most popular category worldwide for online shopping was books, films and music, with UK shoppers the biggest purchasers of these goods (77%). Chinese consumers topped three further categories, purchasing more household goods (57%), apparel (58%) and footwear (53%) online than any other country. The study also found most computer hardware/software or consumer electronics are bought online by Brazilian consumers (59%).

The study also showed significant differences in why consumers abandon online shopping carts. Overall, high shipping costs (67%), additional fees at time of delivery such as duties and taxes (47%) and the delivery time (39%), were the top disincentives to complete purchases.

Shipping prices were the biggest turn-off in the US, UK and Japan. Consumers in the US (83%), UK (79%) and Japan (78%) are three times more sensitive to shipping prices than consumers in South Korea (25%).

UK consumers complained the most about additional duty and tax fees at time of delivery with 65% saying they are an obstacle to completing a purchase. UK shoppers also topped the complaints about product descriptions being in a foreign language (46%), merchants not accepting their credit card (41%) and pricing not being in UK currency (44%).

Price of products was found to be the most important consideration when shopping online for all 10 countries. However, other consumer preferences varied. For example:

•       Ease and speed of the online checkout process was more important to consumers in Germany and South Korea (both 59%) but much less important in Japan (11% of consumers)
•       French consumers were seven times more interested in the ability to track an order than Japanese consumers (37% versus 5%)
•       A clear and easy to understand return policy was almost three times more important to consumers in China (36%) than to consumers in Brazil and the US (both 13%)

“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,” said Patrick Jelly, Pitney Bowes.

When asked about preferences for receiving information on new products, promotions or other offers from retailers/merchandisers, 59% of global consumers indicated they prefer email, 25% of respondents said they prefer to receive information in catalogues and direct mail, indicating mail is another strong channel which online retailers should consider when communicating.