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Shopping Without Borders: E-Commerce Around the Globe
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Shopping Without Borders: E-Commerce Around the Globe

As Internet penetration continues to expand around the world, emerging markets are winning the race to embrace e-commerce. A Nielsen global e-commerce online survey found that the appetite for online shopping is strongest in the largely developing regions of Latin America and Asia-Pacific, with both areas eclipsing the global average for 22 product categories measured in the study. But the similarities between the two regions stop there.

The biggest difference? Latin Americans browse and Asia-Pacific respondents buy.

In fact, while online browsing rates are highest in Latin America, online buying rates for the region are the lowest for just about every category in the study. Conversely, online buying rates in Asia-Pacific are the highest of any region—so high that buying rates exceed browsing rates for more than half (14) of the categories.

“Latin Americans are enthusiastic online shoppers, but the online retail infrastructure has not yet caught up with offering conversion opportunities,” said John Burbank, president of Strategic Initiatives, Nielsen. “Other barriers to e-commerce success include Internet access, shipping costs, high taxes and problematic delivery logistics. Asia is the farthest down the e-commerce maturity curve. In Asia-Pacific, tech-savvy consumers have already embraced the convenience of online shopping. Attracting new buyers using mobile could be an accelerator in the developing markets, as it provides greater access to more people faster.”

Online browsing and buying percentages are similar in Europe, North America and the Middle East/Africa, with a few exceptions, but for different reasons than those affecting Latin America and Asia-Pacific. In these regions, online shopping propensity largely comes down to availability and opportunity.

In North America and the largely-developed region of Europe, there are no shortages of product availability. Both areas boast abundant shopping outlets, and online retailing represents another channel competing for market share. “Western Europe is leading the way on consumer-packaged goods category adoption for e-commerce,” said Burbank. “In the U.K. and France, the traditional hypermarkets and grocery retailers have gone ‘all in’ and are driving real change with consumers on their buying habits.” Online trips for fast-moving consumer goods in Great Britain have increased from 70 million in the year ending first-quarter 2013 to 91 million in the year ending first-quarter 2014, and in France, have risen from 32 million trips to 42 million. 

In the Middle East/Africa region, lower-than-average online percentages can largely be attributed to opportunity—or lack thereof. In a region where disposable income is low and shopping for daily needs is the norm, online shopping is not a priority. But that will almost certainly change as more consumers continue to move up the socio-economic ladder.

The report also discusses:

  • The correlation between online browsing and buying intentions.
  • A look at which product categories are growing in online purchase intent.
  • A classification of online consumers and how to effectively reach them.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Survey of E-commerce.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access across 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.