UK is world’s third most popular shopping destination for international online shoppers, PayPal reveals


New research from PayPal reveals the UK is the world’s third most popular shopping destination for international online shoppers. The research found an estimated 86.4m of them from 29 countries surveyed bought from the UK in the last 12 months, attracted by the variety, quality and authenticity of products available on British websites.

Widening the net

While the established growth markets of China, USA, France and Germany continue to lead the way in buying British, the study also reveals that Nigeria and India present new areas of opportunity for the nation’s businesses. In the last year, an estimated 5.8m Nigerians and 4.9m Indians bought from the UK, placing them fifth and sixth in the list of online buyers of British goods.

Mobile closing the gap

In the UK’s top four online export markets, desktop computers remain consumers’ preferred device for internet shopping. Yet smartphones continue to close the gap, signalling the growing importance of mobile commerce for the nation’s businesses. For example, 86% of Chinese online shoppers now say they shop via a mobile device, with 83% of cross-border shoppers using their smartphone to purchase abroad.

Cameron McLean, PayPal UK managing director, said: “As the world’s third most popular destination for online shoppers, Britain is punching well above its weight when it comes to global e-commerce. Yet there are still a wealth of opportunities out there for any company willing to look beyond traditional markets and sales channels. The most successful businesses will be the ones that target less established, high-growth markets whilst also setting themselves up to capitalise on the vast, borderless potential of mobile.”

Spotlight on China

Despite the emergence of other markets, an estimated 21.9m of the shoppers buying British online are based in China, reinforcing the country’s importance to any business keen to expand its international sales. The five most popular purchases among Chinese cross-border shoppers when buying cross-border are:

  1. Clothing, footwear, accessories (59%[3])
  2. Cosmetics/beauty products (57%)
  3. Groceries, food, drink, alcohol (42%)
  4. Consumer electronics (39%)
  5. Travel and transportation (37%)

Almost half of cross-border shoppers from China (47%) say they access foreign stores by  going directly  to a website they have used before, underlining the need for businesses to get that first, all-important transaction right. Meanwhile, 33% of cross-border shoppers say that delivery shipping costs prevent them from shopping cross-border more often, and 26% of online shoppers who have abandoned a cross-border purchase in the past say they did so because the delivery time was too long and 24% abandoned purchases because they were put off by the high cost of returning items.

McLean said: “There are clear lessons for British businesses that want to boost their online international sales.  Your customers expect to shop on websites in their own language and want to pay in their own currencies – and may buy from your rivals if you don’t offer that experience. And if you want to crack the Chinese market, you really need to engage with your customers through hugely popular Chinese social media and messaging channels such as WeChat.“

PayPal has two programmes designed to help British businesses grow their international customer base: PassPort, a website to equip them with country-specific guidance and tools to grow global sales; and China Connect, which gives Chinese consumers direct access to PayPal’s merchant partners worldwide and offers free advice and guidance on building online sales.