More consumers will buy clothing from international sites than any other product category, a study from PayPal and Ipsos shows.

Consumers who shop international web sites spend roughly twice as much as those who only shop on domestic sites (the report did not provide specific order data).

That’s according to a report from PayPal and research firm Ipsos based on a survey of more than 17,500 consumers who were 18 and older and own an Internet-connected device. The respondents, who were located in 22 countries, weren’t all PayPal users. 56% of respondents identified themselves as cross-border shoppers, or consumers who shop international sites for at least 10% of their overall purchases.

PayPal says two big things stand out as determining factors of earning cross-border business. “Free shipping is the biggest driver,” says Melissa O’Malley, PayPal’s director of global merchant and cross-border trade initiatives. “You have to be able to offer that to get cross-border shoppers. A safe way to pay is number two. That’s a big topic for people who are buying from merchants they’ve never heard from, where they’ve never bought something from China or Brazil and they want to make sure their credit card is safe.”

Customer service and a language barrier, on the other hand, aren’t too big on consumers’ lists of concerns thanks in large part to technology that has made it easier for people to communicate with anyone in any language, the survey finds.

“If people really want a product, they can figure out the description,” O’Malley says. “It’s not a deal breaker in terms of people wanting to shop cross-border.”


The study found that regardless of the region surveyed, customers are more likely to shop abroad for clothing and footwear than any other product category (39%), trailed by consumer electronics (26%) and toys and hobbies (20%).

O’Malley attributes the popularity of clothing and footwear in international e-commerce to shoppers’ willingness to get exactly what they want regardless of where they have to find it as well as brands like youth-focused apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, No. 52 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, having strong global footprints.

“They’ve made it easier for their customers to shop cross-border,” O’Malley says. “It’s also driven by choice. It’s really driven by people wanting something that they can’t get domestically and that’s by large part usually done with clothing.”

Of the countries studied, Austria (83%) has the highest percentage of consumers who shop online internationally, something O’Malley attributes to the country’s physical and cultural proximity to neighboring Germany.

And while mobile commerce is growing, most people shop on desktop or laptop computers. O’Malley says 76% of all transactions are completed on a desktop computer, with 16% being completed on a smartphone and 8% on a tablet. But that doesn’t mean that retailers looking to expand their global footprint should ignore mobile.


“There’s a lot of people who can’t afford a laptop or a desktop,” she says. “They can afford to have one device and that’s a mobile phone. When you’re looking at capturing those shoppers that aren’t even online yet, there’s a huge number of emerging market shoppers that don’t have an Internet device but when they get one it’s going to be a mobile phone. Merchants need to look at optimizing their sites so they can capture those customers.”

The one thing a retailer shouldn’t bother with if they’re looking to convert an international shopper is a loyalty program. “We hear a lot these days about people being driven by loyalty programs but when you’re shopping cross-border, when you’re at the point of checkout in terms of payment, it’s having a safe way to pay,” O’Malley says.