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Attention Online Retailers: Pitney Bowes Research Shows One Size Does Not Fit All in Global E-Commerce

New global e-commerce research from Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE: PBI) reveals that one-size does not fit all when it comes to consumers’ online shopping preferences around the world. While international shoppers share some characteristics, the survey reveals key differences among consumers in many countries. U.S. retailers looking to expand their businesses online to international markets should consider the unique consumer shopping behaviors and preferences in each country.

Commissioned by Pitney Bowes, the polling firm ORC International surveyed approximately 10,000 adults across 10 countries regarding shopping habits and preferences. Consumers were polled in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Online shopping is a truly global habit, according to the research. Overall, 93 percent of consumers polled have purchased products online, with 49 percent doing so during the last 30 days. Consumers in Germany, South Korea and the U.K. were the highest for making online product purchases (98 percent) followed closely by Japan (96 percent). In Canada, where online shopping is least prevalent, more than four out of five (82 percent) reported having bought goods online.

The survey also found that international shoppers want four basic things when purchasing products online: competitive prices (71 percent); a broad selection of products (42 percent); easy, intuitive checkout (35 percent); and low costs for shipping, duties and taxes (35 percent). Price of products was the most important consideration for purchasing products online in all 10 countries. However, other consumer preferences varied by country. For example:

  • Ease and speed of the online checkout process was more important to consumers in Germany and South Korea (both 59 percent), but much less important in Japan (11 percent).
  • French consumers were seven times more interested in the ability to track an order than Japanese consumers (37 percent versus five percent).
  • Accurate delivery date estimates were more important to consumers in China and South Korea (both 20 percent) but less important in Canada (10 percent).
  • A clear and easy to understand return policy was almost three times more important to consumers in China (36 percent) than to consumers in Brazil and the U.S. (both 13 percent).

“Given today’s economic situation, international e-commerce is becoming even more enticing as U.S. products are becoming more attractive and affordable for international buyers,” said Jay Oxton, president of mail services, Pitney Bowes. “However, to be successful, retailers need to ensure they can offer a simple and seamless online shopping experience, and have a clear understanding of consumers’ purchasing, shipping and communications preferences in each market.”

The study also showed significant differences in why the consumers surveyed abandon online shopping carts. High shipping costs (67 percent), additional fees at time of delivery such as duties and taxes (47 percent), and the delivery time (39 percent) were the top disincentives to complete purchases online. Consumers in the U.S. (83 percent), U.K. (79 percent) and Japan (78 percent) are three times more sensitive to shipping prices than consumers in South Korea (25 percent).

The survey also revealed insight on what types of products international consumers are more likely to purchase online than in a brick-and-mortar store. Top product categories for online purchases included books, videos and music (58 percent), computer hardware and software (41 percent), and consumer electronics (38 percent).

Consumers in China indicated they are more likely to purchase apparel (58 percent) and footware (53 percent) online versus in a store. As a matter of fact, for almost every category included in the survey, respondents in China are more likely to purchase products online with the exception of computer hardware and software (39 percent), and jewelry/watches and accessories (16 percent).

When asked about preferences for receiving information on new products, promotions or other offers from retailers/merchandisers, 59 percent of global consumers indicated they prefer e-mail communications. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they prefer to receive this information in catalogs and direct mail, indicating that mail is another strong channel for online retailers. Four percent of respondents prefer to receive information via text messaging, and social media channels (Facebook and Twitter).

Looking at all 10 countries, consumers in Brazil had the highest preference for receiving new product and promotional information via e-mail (72 percent). Consumers in Australia (33 percent) had the highest preference for receiving information in catalogs and direct mail followed closely by Canada (32 percent), Germany (31 percent) and the U.S. (30 percent). Text messaging information had the highest preference with consumers in South Korea (13 percent), Japan (12 percent) and China (nine percent). Consumers in China (11 percent), and Brazil and South Korea (both five percent) responded the highest for receiving information via social media channels.

Methodology:

The survey of 10,000 respondents, conducted by ORC International on behalf of Pitney Bowes, was conducted online and polled 1,000 respondents across 10 countries. The survey was conducted in June 2011.

About Pitney Bowes:

Delivering more than 90 years of innovation, Pitney Bowes provides software, hardware and services that integrate physical and digital communications channels. Long known for making its customers more productive, Pitney Bowes is increasingly helping other companies grow their business through advanced customer communications management. Pitney Bowes is a $5.4 billion company and employs more than 30,000 worldwide. Pitney Bowes: Every connection is a new opportunity™. www.pb.com/

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