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GUEST COMMENT Optimising for Asian ecommerce spend: top tips for retailers

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As UK retailers prepare to invite shoppers back in-store again, it’s clear they are opening their doors to a new environment from the one they first shut on almost a year ago. Retail has moved online. While face to face spend will likely show an impressive recovery as consumers flock to dress themselves for a newly sociable summer, there are some key factors at play that will mean online still has to do a lot of the legwork. 

One such key factor is tourism: specifically, visitors from Asia who come to the UK and enjoy spending lavishly in-store. In 2019, Chinese tourism brought in £1.7bn to the UK economy, according to VisitBritain. That’s second only to the USA when it comes to total spend by country. What’s more, the average spend per visit for Chinese tourists is £1,937. Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan also have a similarly high average spend per visit. 

Despite not being able to travel, these Asian spenders are still looking online to purchase from their favourite European retailers. We know that ecommerce uptake, particularly in China, is strong — the country is set to become the first in history to see the majority of retail sales taking place online instead of in-store, according to eMarketer. And based on our own data, as a leading payment brand in Asia, we have seen a 300 % growth over the last four years in online transactions made by our Asian cardmembers in Europe. For our Taiwanese and South Korean cardmembers in particular, 98 % and 96 % of all transactions, respectively, were made online in 2020.

While travel is still limited for Asian tourists, there are still many ways for European retailers to attract them online instead. And the relationships forged with this demographic now, while they’re looking to spend through ecommerce will benefit stores in terms of physical visits when international travel is open again. 

A fundamental part of attracting spend from Asian shoppers is accommodating their specific needs and understanding their spend behaviour, as these can differ greatly compared to UK and other European consumers. Based on our insights and market knowledge, here are our top tips to ensure Asian shoppers will want to spend with you:

  • Implement local language and currency capabilities: The online shopping experience is always greatly improved when customers can access ecommerce sites in their own language and currency. Relying on customers to do their own currency conversion is not only a pain but can also result in cart abandonment. 
  • Get your shipping right: Asian shoppers intentionally choose efficient and secure delivery services, because the security and legitimacy of goods is important to them. This is even more pronounced when purchasing from Europe. European e-tailers are attractive because the product is considered bona fide and shoppers know purchases will arrive in good condition.
  • Invest in good customer service: We all appreciate good customer service, but this is of particular importance in Asian cultures, where there is an expectation for high levels of service. This includes receiving timely replies to enquiries, reliable reviews, no hidden costs, and a clear and simple returns process.
  • Make the most of Asian holidays: We’ve seen great interest from our Asian cardmembers to spend in Europe during their holidays and key retail dates. For example, Singles Day, with its origins as a Chinese retail event, was the highest spending day in Europe in 2019 compared to other key retail dates during the year. It is also worth keeping in mind that July and December are the months when most Japanese companies give bonuses, meaning Japanese customers are more likely to splash out in these months.
  • Create innovative promotions to boost loyalty: Asian shoppers like bargains and promotions, so spend some time researching and discovering what discount schemes work in each market. For example, our customer data shows that Taiwanese cardmembers prefer cashback as a loyalty incentive compared to Japanese cardmembers, who value discounts and special offers.

In a challenging time for retailers, there is a big opportunity to optimise online for international visitors – enabling spend not only now, but in the future as Asian shoppers see the benefits of shopping with European retailers outside of their holidays. This is a significant and valuable audience, and retailers who do not optimise to their specific needs are missing out.


Andrew Mitchell, Vice President, Development and Infrastructure Support, JCB International

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