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Results from Whistl’s survey of consumers in key international ecommerce markets.

June 2020

China most popular marketplace for international online shoppers.

Online search engine results are the most significant influence on international online purchases – Amazon and eBay dominate.

Paypal is the favoured method of payment. 

In the second release of results from its survey of key international ecommerce markets, Whistl, the leading delivery management company in the UK, has found two thirds of foreign online purchases are bought from China, followed by the UK, USA then Germany.  

Countries purchased from in last year % of respondents who have purchased
China 64%
UK 34%
USA 29%
Germany 17%
Japan 8%
Canada 8%
France 7%
Austria 6%
New Zealand 3%
Italy 1%

Of all the countries surveyed, China was the most popular country for international purchases, apart from the Republic of Ireland where the UK was the key marketplace.  The next country of preference for online shoppers from the UK was the USA. In France, Germany was preferred, In Germany, Austria; in

Australia, the USA; and for the USA it was Canada. The results indicated that geographical location and proximity also played a factor in cross border purchasing. 

On a gender basis a slightly higher percentage of women buy from China while slightly more men buy from the USA. Interestingly, twice as many men than women in Germany buy from Austria. 

Although China is the most popular country for international online purchases across all ages, older shoppers are less likely to buy from China compared to their younger counterparts. Twice as many younger online shoppers buy from Japan compared to those middle-aged and older.

What influences consumers to make international online purchases 

The survey found that results from an online search engine were the most significant influence on international online purchases, followed by family or friend recommendations, a retailer’s website and then a social media post. 

Influence on international purchases % of respondents
Internet search engine results 78%
Family or friend recommendation 18%
On retailer website 14%
Social media advert 13%

The results from an internet search is the most important influence across all six countries surveyed, with search engines used most in France; Australia; Ireland and least in UK; Germany; USA. 

Of the countries surveyed, a family/friend recommendation is likely to be most influential in Ireland, and least so in the UK and Australia.  The retailer’s website is likely to have the most influence on consumers based in UK, the United States, and Germany. 

The research found a slightly higher proportion of men appear to favour using a search engine and a higher proportion of women are influenced by social media compared to men.  Significantly more shoppers aged 18-39 were influenced by family/friend recommendations and social media compared to older age groups.

Typically, online shoppers use an average of 2.1 sites to purchase online from abroad, with the number of sites used falling by age.  

Most popular online stores % of respondents using online stores
Amazon 67%
eBay 44%
Wish 15%
Aliexpress 15%
Alibaba 8%
Asos 8%
Etsy 7%
Zalando 6%
Rakuten 4%
Shopify 3%

Amazon and eBay tend to dominate, but there are national differences: Amazon is particularly used in France and Germany but much less so in Australia. eBay is used particularly in Australia and UK but much less so in France and United States.  Aliexpress is used more in Republic of Ireland and France compared to other countries.

Amazon and eBay are the sites most used by both men and women when buying from abroad, but men tend to use eBay more than women, while women use Wish; ASOS and Etsy more than men.

Payment methods used

Paypal is the favoured method of payment across all countries surveyed, with the exception of the United States, where Credit Card is preferred.

Payment methods used % of respondents using payment methods
Paypal 62%
Credit card 33%
Debit card 20%
Gift voucher/card 7%
Direct debit 6%
Invoice 3%

In the UK, France, Germany and Australia, Credit Card is the second preferred option, whereas in Ireland it is third (Debit Card is second in Ireland).

A preference for Debit Card is significantly higher among 18-39 year olds compared to older age groups.

Melanie Darvall, Director Marketing & Communications, Whistl, said: “The predominance of China as the marketplace for international online shoppers in not really surprising.  However, the value of our research findings is the information e-tailers can use to help maximise the opportunities for international sales in these key markets whether it’s the sales platforms used, optimisation of website or social media strategy.

“Consumer habits vary by geography, gender and age and our guide provides insight into these key international online markets and the drivers of consumer behaviour.”

The survey took place in the UK, Republic of Ireland, France, Germany, Australia and the USA. 

For a copy of the guide – CLICK HERE

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