How the World Shops Cross-Border


New Study on Trends in Global Cross-Border Shopping Reveals UK as Top Three Exporter of Online Purchases

LONDON, February 9, 2014 – A new study commissioned by FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and conducted by Forrester Consulting has revealed preferences of online shoppers, both globally and in the UK*. In an effort to better understand global purchasing behaviour in cross-border e-commerce, researchers questioned more than 9,000 respondents in 17 countries and territories, and conducted interviews with small-and-medium businesses with cross-border operations. The UK, along with China and the US, are the top three exporters of online purchases.

With online buying behaviour currently representing more than $1 trillion in global sales per year and forecasted to nearly double in the next four years according to Forrester Research data, the findings of the paper, “Seizing The Cross-Border Opportunity”** are revealing. For more than a third (34%) of UK online shoppers, online purchases account for at least a quarter of their total monthly spend. Clothing and apparel are the most popular online purchase in the UK, along with books, footwear and music. The study also found a significant part of e-commerce involves cross-border shipments.

“This research provides deep insight into the priorities and preferences of global online customers and highlights how small and mid-sized retailers can better take advantage of the cross-border opportunity”, said Raj Subramaniam, executive vice president, Global Marketing, FedEx. “Knowledge about both the cultural similarities and differences in geographic markets can help businesses gain real online retail advantage.”


70% of UK respondents indicated they buy items online at least once a month and a little over 35% say they make online purchases of goods from merchants outside their country at least every few months.

What all this means for small and mid-size businesses is they also have an opportunity to take advantage of regional differences. UK respondents look to international SME retailers because the prices are generally lower (41%), or to source specialty and unique items (38%).

UK shoppers also indicated a greater interest in international cross-border shopping where the experience provided simple exchanges, guaranteed costs at check-out including duties and taxes, and free returns, with 45% saying this was very influential to their decision making.

The top ten physical items purchased online in the UK are:

  1. Apparel and clothing accessories (64% of online shoppers in the UK)
  2. Books (53%)
  3. Footwear (46%)
  4. Music (39%)
  5. Videos/DVDs (37%)
  6. Consumer electronics (32%)
  7. Computer hardware (29%)
  8. Cosmetics and beauty products (28%)
  9. Appliances (28%)
  10. Toys (25%)


  • Primary online shopping destinations are the US, China and the UK. While shoppers indicated buying cross-border from all 17 international markets included in the study, the US, China and the UK were the top 3 exporters of online purchases.

  • Cross-border shoppers prefer to purchase from well-known major multi-brand retailers and global online marketplaces. In fact, the majority of respondents in every country surveyed ranked major multi-brand online retailers or marketplaces as their first choice out of five business types for cross-border The findings indicate an effective way for SME retailers to enter the global arena is through online marketplaces.

  • Duties and taxes curb cross-border activity. While shipping cost and delivery time are top of mind with shoppers, 35% of global respondents cited high duties/taxes as a concern for cross-border shopping with the most significant numbers coming from Canada – 62% of Canadians believe duties and taxes are an issue – higher than any other country.

“The results of this study on global trends suggests that streamlining regulations by harmonizing duty free limits across the globe could result in a significant uptick in cross-border trade, benefitting consumers and businesses around the world,” said David Cunningham, CEO and president, International, FedEx Express.

In a world of globalized shopping, cross-border online trade seems destined to expand exponentially, benefitting small and mid-size businesses and consumers with exciting and expanding opportunities. Whether the customers find retailers through word of mouth, search engines, or ads, the best results will no doubt come from a logistics provider with global network expertise that can help online businesses go global from Day One.

About FedEx Express
FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing fast and reliable delivery to more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. FedEx Express uses a global air-and-ground network to speed delivery of time-sensitive shipments, by a definite time and date with a money-back guarantee.

About FedEx Corp
FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $47 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand. Consistently ranked among the world’s most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 300,000 team members to remain “absolutely, positively” focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities. For more information, visit

* “Seizing The Cross-Border Opportunity,” a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of FedEx, December 2014 To read: urls tbd
****Approximately 500 respondents were surveyed from the UK.