International Ecommerce Explained: Stats and Trends to Watch in 2021
Global ecommerce is many things--cross-border trade, borderless business, international online retail. But more important than what it is, is what it is not.
Global ecommerce isn't a luxury. It is not one strategy among many. But going global is a necessity.
Unfortunately, it's also fraught with questions: Where to invest? What nations present the best product-market fit? How can you attract non-local buyers? Which is most important: translation, currencies, payment options, or something else completely?
This guide will provide you an inside look on the international ecommerce, with hints on ways to expand in the market.
For more on how to grow beyond boundaries, download our International Ecommerce Playbook
1. What's global ecommerce?
First things first: global ecommerce is your selling services or products across geopolitical boundaries from a business's state of origin, normally defined as its heritage or integrating location. Products or services are offered into non-native markets through internet sales and marketing.
Cumulative data expects a 27.6% increase in global ecommerce earnings over the most recently monitored period.
Amounts of that scale are tough to wrap our heads around. They are at once tender and daunting. If your organization is staring down that $4.8 trillion barrel and wondering,"Where do we start?" Rest assured, you are not alone.
The advantages of international ecommerce are:
- Easier expansion into international markets
- Easier-to-find product-market match
- Shorter B2B sales cycles
- Faster building of international presence
- Lower barriers to entry
As Harvard Business Review wrote:"Business leaders are scrambling to adapt to a world few imagined possible just a year ago. The fantasy of a borderless world has come crashing down. Traditional pillars of available markets--the United States and the UK--are wobbling, and China is positioning itself as globalization's staunchest defender."
We'll unpack that quotation and more below. For now, the big idea is straightforward: the shadow of international ecommerce looms too big to ignore.
2. How big is the worldwide ecommerce market?
The international ecommerce market is predicted to complete $4.89 trillion in 2021. That figure is estimated to rise over the next few years, demonstrating that borderless ecommerce has grown a profitable alternative for online retailers.
Two decades ago, only 13.6percent of sales were made from online purchases. Now, that number is predicted to reach 19.5percent in 2021, a 45.8% growth in ecommerce market share over two decades. Growth is forecast to continue, reaching 21.8percent by 2024, which translates into an 8.2 percent point increase in only five decades.
3. Global ecommerce sales growth
Global retail sales growth will continue to grow and take up more retail market share. According to eMarketer, online retail sales will reach $6.39 trillion, with ecommerce carrying up 21.8percent of total retail sales.
Although retail had a challenging year in 2020, every national market covered by eMarketer saw double-digit ecommerce development. Latin America saw incredible growth (36.7percent ), despite a 3.4% fall in total retail sales. Argentina's ecommerce industry grew by 79 percent in 2020, followed by Singapore, at 71.1%.
China continues to lead the global ecommerce marketplace, with complete online sales just under the $2.8 trillion mark. Additionally, it has the world's most digital buyers, with 792.5 million, representing 33.3% of the worldwide total. China is set to become the first country in history to transact over half of its retail sales on the internet, with 52.1percent of retail happening through ecommerce.
The United States ecommerce market is forecast to reach $843 billion in 2021, less than a third of China's. After China and the United States, the third-largest ecommerce market is the United Kingdom. The UK's total ecommerce sales are expected to earn $169 billion, which is a small dip from $180 billion in 2020.
Two other nations round out the top five ecommerce markets: Japan is forecast at $144.08 billion in 2021, and South Korea is expected to earn $120.56 billion.
Three of the top five markets are a part of this Asia-Pacific area, accounting for 62.6percent of online sales. This makes it a significant market for retailers to concentrate their efforts on.
Casey Armstrong, CMO at ecommerce fulfillment brand ShipBob, adds,"While plenty of focus in ecommerce facilities around the USA and Canada, there's a lot to learn from other big international players that are seeing an even more accelerated growth rate in ecommerce."
He adds,"Merchants can alter where they sell based on this information and the requirement on ecommerce from such countries. At ShipBob, it is why we've opened fulfillment centers in Canada and the UK and are going to start another in Australia."
4. 11 top international ecommerce trends to watch
The new standard? It is mobile shopping
The COVID-19 pandemic made a substantial effect on ecommerce trends around the world. With brick-and-mortar shops shuttering overnight, shoppers flocked to the world wide web to buy their items. Experts say the pandemic hastened the shift to online shopping by as much as five years.
M-commerce, or mobile commerce, involves shopping online via a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone computer. M-commerce will continue to break out during the next few decades. Technological advances make it easier for people to store in their telephones.
In actuality, three from four consumers say they purchase from their smartphones as it saves time.
Insider Intelligence forecasts that m-ecommerce volume increases at a 25.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) until 2024, hitting $488 billion in earnings, or 44 percent of e-commerce transactions.
Construction supply chain resilience
The affect the coronavirus pandemic made on supply chains was, based on Morris Cohen, Wharton professor of operations, decisions and information,"a significant disturbance, along the lines of having an earthquake or tsunami." For decades, the center characteristics of supply chain management were:
- Low-cost supply
- Minimal inventory
After the coronavirus broke supply chains around the world, it drove companies to concentrate on building supply chain resilience, or to think of strategies to keep supply chains from stopping and restoring them quickly when they do.
A recent study by Deloitte revealed that nine in 10 companies are making substantial investments to increase their supply chain resilience, with 95 percent of executive panels suggesting stronger supply chains as"important" or"very important."
Not only does a powerful supply chain make ecommerce brands more nimble, but in addition, it gives them the capacity to scale and launch new go-to-market approaches for cross-border ecommerce.
Do you know how resilient your supply chain should be? To discover, Garntner identified six critical factors.
- Risk appetite. How much risk can your company can consume?
- Critical spouses. Evaluate if spouses can weather certain conditions and encourage a diversification strategy.
- What are you protecting? Is it a product line, government contract, or market access?
- Trade-off choices. Is it worth setting resistance for existing networks or pursuing diversification for upcoming products?
- Who will pay for it? More resilience is an investment you will need to pay for. How are you going to offset the costs?
- National or trading bloc policies and incentives. Do they provide incentives to organizations that move manufacturing back or closer to the end customer?
Ecommerce moves past the Western world
By 2023, retail ecommerce sales in Asia-Pacific are estimated to be higher than the rest of the world united. This is because of: (1) rapid urbanization and technological progress; (2) over 85 percent of fresh middle-class growth living in APAC; and (3) a plethora of government and private-led initiatives in China.
On the B2B front, manufacturing in APAC and China has experienced a renaissance. Because of this, the B2B disparity is much clearer.
Entering China--and to a lesser degree APAC as a whole--introduces a few of thorny challenges:
- China causes websites on overseas servers to load painfully slow, dragging down onsite conversion rates and search engine rankings.
- Advertising and societal content through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google are inaccessible in China, though Chinese companies have the ability to enter Western markets.
- Chinese users use ecommerce.
Is there a response? Check out our report on the Shopify Effect and how entrepreneurs are changing the world.
Online shopping happening outside boundaries
To begin, going global does not necessarily call for a global presence. Online shoppers are increasingly looking outside their nation's borders for purchases. In actuality, during one test, the vast majority of overseas buys from India was the United States.
None of that needs multiple storefronts for each place or establishing international warehousing and fulfillment. Among the simplest ways to start testing new markets would be to prioritize online marketing or social media overseas. This requires an international approach to Google Ads, Product Listing Ads, Facebook, and Instagram through geographic targeting.
Promoting social content and advertising online in different countries, even if all you do is monitor engagement instead of earnings, tests viability. But maybe the best strategy would be to experiment with marketplaces in target areas, where 62 percent of global online sales now occur.
China and APAC growth
Despite these challenges, numerous DTC leaders are already making headway (and significant earnings ). Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds, lately called China the"brand's horizon for future growth."
The question is: how are they doing so?
Strategies typically cluster around three approaches:
- Partnering with local vendors.
- Purchasing an on-the-ground team. Based on size, this might include localization, marketing, logistics, customer service, sales, and technology.
- Establishing an online presence through third party marketplaces--i.e., Tmall and JD--or a branded ecommerce website. Branded sites are more costly, but they provide more information and better client relationships.
"There is not any easy answer to China," says Xavier Lee, Managing Director in Jumpstart Commerce, a Singapore-based agency with offices across Southeast Asia. "Reexamine your merchandise to determine market match. Start speaking to Trade Associations. Get yourself on the electronic ground with a WeChat account. Move around the various tier cities to glimpse how customers act. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still."
Product-market fit varies by country and region
Making strategic decisions on which geographies to prioritize hinges on product-market match: this is, validating existing demand or opportunity to your offerings within new areas. As an example, despite much effort (and money), deodorant hasn't turned into a successful product in China due mostly to biological motives .
Luckily, Nielsen's Connected Commerce report gives a comprehensive breakdown of the most-lucrative online businesses by area. Aligning those verticals with your own supplies a strong starting point to direct global decisions.
Equally important is determining geographic potentials. Once a region has been identified, a country-by-country analysis must follow. NC State University's Estimating Market Potential: Is There a Market? Does this by outlining seven measures:
- Define the market section.
- Define the geographical boundaries.
- Define the local contest.
- Define the market's fiscal size.
- Estimate reasonable market share.
- Determine average yearly consumption.
- Estimate an average selling price.
International analytics hold the key
Needless to say, even the best-informed speculation pales compared to the insights contained within the geography of current clients and visitors. You may uncover this by assessing traffic and sales-by-country information .
With Google Analytics' locations report (Audience > Geo > Location), set up sections to analyze international traffic by continent, country, region, or town. Take particular note of the areas where visitors and conversion rates are highest--these may represent where you have unknowingly gone worldwide already.
Also, look closely at the areas where traffic might be high but conversions are low--these are probably clues as to where there's demand for your goods but something onsite (e.g., language, currency, payment options, etc.) is a barrier to buy.
Instead, if your ecommerce platform provides native reporting, inspect the dashboards that show sessions by place (visitors ), clients by state (shipping addresses), and earnings by charging country (payment addresses).
"You would not think the need for Piper in countries like Australia, Japan, and Canada," says Tommy Gibbons, Director of Marketing in Piper. "Shopify Plus enables us to easily understand the place of our sales so that we could quickly start to advertise in areas of the world where we see that the very best product-market fit."
Localized language matters
Going native with your website's language--past Google Translate--can make or break global earnings. It creates a fantastic customer experience from first impression to checkout.
According to a poll of 8,709 international customers in 29 countries, CSA Research discovered that 65 percent of customers prefer content in their speech, even if it's poor quality. Moreover, 40% won't buy from websites in different languages.
This last finding bears closer examination. Localization can often feel overwhelming, such as an all-or-nothing endeavor (possibly everything needs to be country-specific or why bother?) . It's not.
The respondents' focus on navigation and"some" content means that a website need not invest in translation from the hop. Obtaining heavily scrutinized areas of a website right is critical: headlines, product titles, etc.. Only after you have gained traction does full-scale translation with a native copywriter and local idioms make sense.
Payment tastes change around the world
Online payment methods weigh heavily on purchasing decisions. Nonetheless, it's easy to overlook how folks pay. Cultural-centricity blinds us to the differences in purchase customs. Without carefully considering the information, companies may default to whatever payment methods have been working domestically.
The coronavirus pandemic sped up customers' adoption of real time payment choices by 41 percent . Global mobile payments constitute 46 percent of the amount, equalling a total of $102.7 billion last year. Real-time payment identifies digital wallet choices where they could make payments fast, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Shop Pay, and PayPal.
But every area still has its own preferred procedures.
It's not surprising that in North America, credit cards are number one by a mile. Digital payment systems like PayPal and Apple Pay are a close second. At the international scale, credit cards and the identical digital payments also predominate.
Unlike North America, cash on delivery is a leading choice in Eastern Europe, India, Africa, and throughout the Middle East. In the same way, allowing direct debit is crucial if your target markets include India, Africa, or Asia.
For some, the differences in taste are small. For many others, the gap is wide. But if you would like to expand internationally, you wish to think about payment options for your target area.
Ethics and growth"avenues" are universal
Fair business practices along with the three"paths" to growth (detailed below) are just two areas where a one-size-fits-all system is logical. The best source for obtaining international ethics right is the Federal Trade Commission's Electronic Commerce: Selling Internationally--A Guide for Companies , which 28 nations have signed. The guide provides a host of questions each company should face head-on:
In terms of growth, Forrester suggests that digital companies"are inclined to follow a similar route and prioritize the identical list of nations."
This list of countries is useful, but the features of each"path" should be weighed carefully.
- Large and developed ecommerce existence
- Smaller markets with powerful physical infrastructures
- Ripe product markets in smaller general markets
- Early-stage ecommerce growth
- Sophisticated domestic regulations
- Digitally advanced nations but small market sizes
Wait and see:
- Uncertain political climates
- Emerging ecommerce markets with long-term Possible
- Difficult infrastructures
B2B's ecommerce will predominate B2C
Statista's B2B ecommerce report summarizes the problem with a punch:"Although B2C eCommerce has seen widespread adoption, it's the recent evolution and expansion of B2B eCommerce that's attracting the interest of buyers, sellers and investors throughout the world." Assessing each market's total yearly value represents a nearly four-fold gap (278.6percent ).
Why is B2B ecommerce such a ripe worldwide prospect?
- B2B marketplaces (e.g., Amazon Business, eWorldTrade, Joor, Alibaba, etc.) operate similar to their B2C counterparts. They supply ready-made connections between buyers and sellers.
- The B2C taste for self-service has infiltrated B2B and relieved the offline barrier of selecting a large sales force. Gartner discovered that B2B"customers wait till they are 57% throughout the purchase process before calling a rep." This provides ecommerce a distinct advantage as self-guided online sales are already the standard.
Last, many wholesale ecommerce customers prefer easy ordering experiences. This is especially true for individual e-retailers, small-to-medium franchises, and B2C outlets. Such buyers still often rely on paper orders and invoices.
Recreating line sheets in electronic form and onboarding new wholesale customers with easy-to-follow reordering processes eliminates the need to make a wholesale station with all the bells and whistles of B2C ecommerce.
It is time to go cross-border
If there's one thing all of the aforementioned data, reports, and trends reveal, it is that global ecommerce is not a choice; it is a necessity. The future of your organization's growth, possibly even its survival, depends upon it. That is why we created a step by step framework for moving global the ideal way.
It is not a luxury. It is not for multinational conglomerates. And it's not simply one among many expansion strategies. Global ecommerce is a must, and something to make the most of for your own brand.