The world is getting smaller as technology makes it easier to shop from anywhere. Every year people are purchasing more and more from other countries, with cross-border e-commerce growth now outpacing domestic e-commerce growth by 50%. By 2026, it’s estimated the global cross-border e-commerce market will be worth $2.2 trillion—a compound annual growth rate of 17% since 2019.
To capitalize on this opportunity, marketers must focus on meeting the unique needs of cross-border buyers. Chief among them are concerns around areas such as delivery, quality and transparency.
To help businesses better understand the attitudes and preferences of cross-border buyers, Meta commissioned a YouGov survey of more than 16,000 online shoppers across eight countries. The study found more than half (54%) of online shoppers surveyed say they’ve already bought a product in the last six months sold by a business in a foreign country, and 82% say they’re open to doing so—a figure that underscores the tremendous future potential of cross-border commerce.
Here’s a look at additional key findings from the research:
Better prices and selection drive purchases
Being able to purchase across borders unveils a wider—and more affordable—range of buying opportunities for people. Online shoppers surveyed cite better prices and access to a larger selection of products as their top motivations for making cross-border purchases. There’s also the allure of something different, with more than a third (35%) of cross-border shoppers surveyed saying they’re motivated by ease of discovering new/interesting products from foreign businesses.
Social media drives discovery
Social networks, friends and family and creators/influencers are crucial in helping today’s highly connected consumers discover and evaluate offerings from sellers abroad.
Social media plays a disproportionately important role in discovery, with 58% of cross-border shoppers surveyed saying they found products from foreign businesses this way. In fact, cross-border shoppers surveyed are 30% more likely to discover products on social media compared with other shoppers.
Product suggestions and evaluations are often coming from social connections and other trusted individuals such as friends and family. Two-thirds of cross-border shoppers surveyed say they rely on recommendations from other consumers—such as those found in groups on social media—when discovering and assessing products from foreign businesses.
Creators/influencers are also vital, with more than half (51%) of cross-border shoppers surveyed citing them as a top source of information to discover and evaluate products. Location plays a key role here, with creators from the same country as the shopper being 1.2 times more likely to be a top source of information compared with an international creator/influencer.
Barriers to cross-border shopping
Although consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with buying across borders, the study reveals there are a number of key blockers that prevent people from completing purchases with foreign businesses. Top among these are concerns over long delivery times and quality.
How can brands address consumers’ concerns? Aceing shipping/delivery—including time, cost and reliability—as well as returns/refunds is critical; cross-border shoppers cite these as the most important factors when deciding whether to purchase from a foreign business.
As cross-border shoppers have fewer opportunities to physically interact with products, contextual details are often needed to allay concerns about quality: Nearly two-thirds (63%) of cross-border consumers surveyed say they want comprehensive product information (e.g., video demos and detailed photography) when evaluating potential purchases from foreign businesses. Technologies such as augmented reality that enable people to experience products immersively can be valuable, with nearly 2 in 5 cross-border shoppers surveyed saying it is important to virtually try potential purchases.
People’s concerns can also be addressed by building trust. Foundational to this is brand image: 64% of online shoppers surveyed say they find the name/credibility of the brand important when evaluating products sold by a foreign business, and 51% say they want to see information about the brand. Specifically, cross-border shoppers cite sustainability, good care of employees and social responsibility as some of the most important brand attributes when evaluating foreign businesses.
Transparency and professionalism are key
Providing experiences that are trustworthy, professional, secure and seamless is key to converting and retaining cross-border shoppers.
Transparency is foundational to trust building and encouraging action, with more than three-quarters of cross-border buyers saying they want all costs—including shipping, handling and applicable taxes—to be clearly displayed, and they want prices to be shown in their own currency.
Professionalism is crucial for the website/app experience, with 38% of cross-border shoppers surveyed saying they want a seller’s website/app to have the look and feel of an established brand. Speed matters too, 67% of cross-border buyers surveyed want fast checkout, as does security; 79% want to have confidence in the seller’s privacy approach to user information.
Delivering customer experiences that delight can drive lasting satisfaction and loyalty. Cross-border shoppers prize being able to get in touch how and when they want: 45% of respondents say it’s important to be able to communicate with the seller in their own language, and 44% want 24/7 customer support. And they’re looking for seamless, digital-first customer service: Shoppers cite messaging services, social media and live chat as their preferred channels for communicating with cross-border sellers.
Ultimately, marketing effectively to cross-border buyers comes down to tailoring strategies to their unique behaviors and needs. By understanding the key roles social media and creators play, developing generous shipping and return policies, providing detailed product information, clearly conveying brand values and focusing on convenience and transparency at checkout, businesses across the globe can find success in today’s connected world.
Written by Facebook