Pitney Bowes has announced the results of its second annual Global Online Shopping Study. The research reveals that while international shoppers share some common similarities on how they are finding and buying products online, consumers have unique global shopping preferences and behaviors that vary by country. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

Retailers looking to expand their brands globally should consider cultural norms and shopping preferences of consumers around the world. According to the study, the majority of online shoppers are using search engines as the preferred method to find products (62% of respondents). When international consumers were asked what types of online sites they would consider purchasing from, 66% chose online marketplaces, while 62% selected retailers' web sites.

The majority of consumers in Russia (78%), China and the U.S. (both 76%) are likely to purchase products from online marketplaces, while consumers in Australia (81%), the U.K. (72%) and Canada (71%) are most likely to buy products directly from a retailer's web site. Germany (46%) had the highest percentage of online shoppers that said they would consider purchasing products they found on search engines, followed by Japan (40%) and South Korea (33%). The largest number of consumers who would consider buying products online from social media sites were in India (27%), followed by Brazil (15%) and Russia (14%).

The study also found that there are differences based on the age of the shopper. When it comes to millennials, more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year-olds (28%) and 21% of 25 to 34 year-olds visit social media sites for inspiration when searching for products. Compare this to only 16% of 35 to 44 year-olds, 12% of 45 to 54 year-olds and seven percent of 55 year-olds and higher. Also, online shoppers in India (38%) ranked highest for searching for products on social media sites, followed by Brazil (21%) and China (20%).

Nearly a quarter of consumers said they make the most online purchases on mobile devices - including mobile/smart phones, tablets or other devices - or a mix of devices. Online shoppers in the U.K. (37%), India (36%) and China (34%), and the U.S. (29%) had the highest rates for using a mobile device, or mix of devices.

Thirty-three percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) are using mobile devices, or a mix of devices, compared to 24% of overall consumers in the study.

"In today's global marketplace, ecommerce 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, Global Ecommerce. "By focusing on the consumer - what they want and how they like to shop - brands can develop the right roadmap to achieve global ecommerce success."

The biggest barriers to adoption of global online shopping are high shipping costs (64%), additional fees owed at time of delivery (48%) and product delivery taking too long (39%).

Product returns are also a major concern, as 33% of global shoppers cited online return policies and processes as deterrents.

Countries with the highest levels were India (46%), Germany (44%) and the U.S. (39%). Thirty-one percent of global online shoppers said that negative customer reviews and ratings are deterrents.

Localisation is also a barrier, with 30% 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%), merchants not accepting credit cards (27%) and when pricing is not in a country's local currency (25%).

Additional study findings included:

  • The U.S. (71%), U.K. (44%) and Germany (39%) continue to be the most desirable e-destinations for consumers to purchase goods online outside their own country.
  • A third of global online shoppers have purchased products online from retailers in other countries. Australians continue to be the most likely to buy products online from retailers outside their own country (63% in 2015 and 2014 studies ) followed by Canada (48% in 2015 versus 54% in 2014) and Russia (49% in 2015 versus 54%).
  • The knowledge gap is starting to close, with consumers believing they can only purchase goods online from retailers in their own country (six percent in the 2015 study versus eight percent in the 2014 study). This was most prevalent with consumers in India (eight percent in 2015 versus 15% in 2014) South Korea (15% in 2015 versus 21% in 2014) and China (15% in 2015 versus 19% in 2014).
  • Price is the top reason (61%) shoppers have purchased or would consider purchasing a product from an online retailer outside of their own country, followed by availability (40%), quality and better selection (both 30%). Product authenticity was highest in India, (36%), China and South Korea (both 30%) and Russia (22%).

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.