Global Online Shopping Study Revealed

By Frederique Bros
on 17 October 2015

Recent research* reveals that while international shoppers share some common similarities in how they find and buy products online, consumers have unique global shopping preferences and behaviours that vary by country. Retailers looking to expand their brands globally should consider the cultural norms and shopping preferences of consumers around the world.

Global Online Shopping Study Revealed

*Pitney Bowes Study Reveals International Differences of Opinion and Behaviour on How Consumers Shop the World 

For the second year in a row, Australian shoppers are the most likely consumers to buy products online from overseas retailers (63 per cent in both years). The majority of Australians (74 per cent) reported the price of a product as the main reason why they shop overseas, followed by availability (52 per cent) and better selection (39 per cent). Looking at products specifically, Australian shoppers are the most likely to purchase books, videos and music (51 per cent), apparel (41 per cent) and consumer electronics (28 per cent) and their favourite place to shop is the U.S. (86 per cent), followed by the U.K. (74 per cent) and China (37 per cent).

Interestingly, Australia ranked as the most desirable e-destination with online shoppers in the U.S. and the U.K. (both 28 per cent), and Japan (27 per cent), where they would want to buy products online from a retailer outside of their own country. In 2014, the U.S. followed by the U.K. and Japan were the top countries selected by online shoppers.

Using search engines to find products is preferred by online shoppers globally (62 per cent. Germany (46 per cent) had the highest percentage of online shoppers who said they would consider purchasing products they found on search engines, followed by Japan (40 per cent), South Korea (33 per cent) and Australia (30 per cent).

The vast majority of consumers in Australia (81 per cent) are likely to buy products directly from a retailer’s website, ahead of the U.K. (72 per cent) and Canada (71 per cent). These results highlight the contrast between consumers in Russia (78 per cent), China and the U.S. (both 76 per cent) who prefer to purchase products from online marketplaces.

The study also revealed the differences in online shopping preferences based on the consumer’s age. When it comes to millennials, globally more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year-olds (28 per cent) and 21 per cent of 25 to 34 year-olds visit social media sites for inspiration when searching for products. Compare this to only 16 per cent of 35 to 44-year-olds, 12 per cent of 45 to 54-year-olds, and seven per cent of 55-year-olds and higher. Looking at preferences by country, online shoppers in India (38 per cent) ranked highest for searching for products on social media sites, followed by Brazil (21 per cent) and China (20 per cent). Interestingly, only a small number of Australians would consider purchasing products found on social media compared to their global counterparts at just 10 per cent.  

More than a quarter of Australian consumers (27 per cent) said they make the most online purchases on mobile devices or a mix of devices. Online shoppers in the U.K. (37 per cent), India (36 per cent), China (34 per cent), and the U.S. (29 per cent) had the highest rates for using a mobile device, or mix of devices. Unsurprisingly, more than 30 per cent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) are using smartphones, tablets, other devices, or a mix of devices, compared to 24 per cent of overall consumers in the study.

Despite the clear opportunity for e-commerce growth, 76 per cent of Australians name high shipping costs as the biggest barrier to further adoption of global online shopping, compared to 64 per cent globally. Other deterrents include additional fees owed at the time of delivery (48 per cent) and product delivery taking too long (39 per cent). Additionally, consumer trust has risen less than 5 per cent over the last 12 months, with 68 per cent of Australians believing that it is safe to buy a product online from another country. 

“Australians are well known as avid online consumers and this research highlights the current opportunities for local and international retailers to further capitalise on this. In order to remain competitive in this rapidly growing marketplace, retailers need to put consumer experience first and overcome the barriers to growth, including high shipping costs, additional fees, delivery timeframes and trust,” said Nick Smith, managing director of ANZ of Pitney Bowes Software.

Product returns are also a major concern, as 33 per cent of global shoppers cited online return policies and processes as deterrents. Countries with the highest levels were India (46 per cent), Germany (44 per cent) and the U.S. (39 per cent). Thirty-one per cent of global online shoppers said that negative customer reviews and ratings are deterrents.  

Localisation is also a barrier, with 30 per cent of global online shoppers saying they would be discouraged from completing a purchase with merchants who do not offer their preferred form of payment. Additional barriers include not being able to read a product description because it is in a foreign language (29 per cent), merchants not accepting credit cards (27 per cent) and pricing is not in a country’s local currency (25 per cent). 

“In today’s global marketplace, e-commerce is continuing to connect the world’s economies in new ways, making it possible for brands to sell, compete and expand their footprint,” said Lila Snyder, President of Global E-commerce. “By focusing on the consumer – what they want and how they like to shop – brands can develop the right roadmap to achieve global e-commerce success.”

Additional study findings

The U.S. (71 per cent), U.K. (44 per cent) and Germany (39 per cent) continue to be the most desirable e-destinations for consumers to purchase goods online outside their own country.

The knowledge gap is starting to close with consumers believing they can only purchase goods online from retailers in their own country (six per cent in the 2015 study versus eight per cent in the 2014 study. This was most prevalent with consumers in India (eight per cent in 2015 versus 15 per cent in 2014) South Korea (15 per cent in 2015 versus 21 per cent in 2014) and China (15 per cent in 2015 versus 19 per cent in 2014). 

Price is the top reason (61 per cent) shoppers have purchased or would consider purchasing a product from an online retailer outside of their own country followed by availability (40 per cent), quality and better selection (30 per cent). Product authenticity was highest in India, (36 per cent), China and South Korea (both 30 per cent) and Russia (22 per cent).

Methodology: The 2015 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study was conducted online by ORC International and surveyed approximately 12,000 adults across 12 countries regarding their perceptions, habits and preferences for making online purchases. Consumers were polled in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  The survey was conducted in August 2015.

About Pitney Bowes

Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) is a global technology company offering innovative products and solutions that enable commerce in the areas of customer information management. For additional information, visit Pitney Bowes at

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