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Cross border sales under pressure from delivery costs


Delivery cost is the single biggest influence over shoppers’ purchasing decisions, according to research into cross-border e-commerce from eBay Enterprise.
The Buying Across Borders report is based on a survey of 227 online shoppers from the UK, southern and western Europe, which was conducted by Imperial College London in July of this year.

Shoppers were asked to rank the factors that have the biggest impact on whether or not they buy items from overseas retailers. The five biggest shopper “turn-offs” when it comes to placing international orders were found to be:

  • High delivery cost (80%)
  • Lack of availability of preferred payment method (74%)
  • Poor product information, including images, text and video (68%)
  • Long delivery time (64%)
  • Price difference due to exchange rate (57%)

Commenting on the report’s findings, Enda Breslin, European head of business development at eBay Enterprise said: “European consumers are increasingly considering overseas retailers as part of their online shopping mix, and it’s expected that EU cross-border shopping will tip €40bn by 2018.”

Enda Breslin, eBay Enterprise

Enda Breslin, eBay Enterprise

Breslin warned UK retailers that they were now facing very stiff competition from overseas, caused in part by the strength of Sterling against other global currencies, in particular the Euro. Speaking about the increasing trend among UK shoppers to buy from overseas, Breslin said: “This could be a temporary phenomenon because of the strength of the pound; UK consumers will have seen a fall of as much as 25% in price if they’re shopping in euros.”

While that might paint a gloomy picture for UK retailers losing out to the growth in cross-border shopping, currencies’ relative values are always changing. “UK merchants need to think defensively,” Breslin said. “But markets have a habit of changing and in two years’ time the euro might well be riding high. So the good times might be closer than some (UK retailers) think.”

UK shoppers are increasingly becoming familiar with buying from France, Germany and Scandinavia. But Chinese retailers are waking up to the potential of the UK market, Breslin said. “French and German retailers are quite relaxed about the whole thing – if UK shoppers want to buy from them, they’re happy enough to sell to them. But Chinese retailers are aggressively marketing themselves to UK shoppers now, with some starting to hold stock in the UK so they can offer reduced lead times on delivery. Frankly, I think a lot of US retailers could learn a thing or two from that.”

The report reveals that the purchase considerations of European shoppers depend a lot on basket size. Three quarters (74%) of European shoppers are influenced heavily by the availability of after-sales services, including returns, when buying high-end, luxury items from overseas, whereas only one quarter (27%) treat it as a priority when buying lower value goods like DVDs, books.

The report also found that shoppers buying higher-value, luxury items from foreign retailers are generally prepared to pay more for delivery and wait longer for their items to arrive than shoppers buying cheaper, “convenience” goods, highlighting the opportunity for retailers to up-sell premium delivery services on higher-value international orders.

Breslin continued: “Just like domestic consumers, cross-border shoppers also want different services, delivery speeds and price points depending on what they are buying. It comes down to choice; retailers that invest in providing a range of delivery options, payment methods and detailed product information will be able to up-sell premium services to those prepared to pay for it, without turning off those shoppers happy to compromise on service for a lower price.”

eBay Enterprise Buying Across Borders infographic:


Header image copyright Norbert Aepli, Switzerland [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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