STAMFORD, CT: Almost 40% of online consumers have purchased goods from another country, with the US, UK and Germany among those they are happiest to buy from, new research has shown.

Pitney Bowes surveyed approximately 12,000 adults across 12 countries for its Global Online Shopping Study and found that nearly all respondents (96%) had made an online purchase. It argued that the relatively low figure for cross-border purchases highlighted an opportunity for international retailers, especially those based in the aforementioned countries.

And if they are looking for markets to target, Australians were most likely to buy products online from retailers outside their own country (63%) followed by Canada and Russia (both 54%).

Several markets, however, will require some educational work to correct misconceptions, such as the belief that one can only buy online from retailers in one's own country. This was most common in Asia, particularly South Korea, where 21% expressed this thinking, ahead of China (19%) and India and Japan (both 15%).

"Retailers looking to expand their businesses online to international markets should consider the unique mindsets and shopping preferences of consumers in each country," advised Craig Reed, vp/global e-commerce at Pitney Bowes.

The commonest reason for buying from another country was a cheaper price, cited by 68% of respondents. Other factors included availability (46%) and a better choice (38%). Brand names also proved a draw for shoppers in India (52%) and China (34%).

The major obstacles to cross-border shopping were the practical issues of high shipping costs, which 68% thought the biggest obstacle, and additional fees (58%). Long delivery times were also an issue for 42%.

Safety issues too, were a deterrent for many. One third (33%) didn't know if it was safe to buy abroad, with consumers from Japan least convinced in this regard.

More positively, almost half (46%) thought it was safe to buy a product online from a retailer based outside of their own country, particularly those in Australia, Canada, India and Brazil, where more than 60% thought it was safe.

"It's critical for retailers to provide buyers with clarity and accuracy in the online buying process, certainty and transparency in delivery, and competitive pricing," said Reed.

"Once these barriers to consumer confidence are overcome, the opportunities and appetite for buying goods outside their own country can increase dramatically."

Data sourced from Pitney Bowes; additional content by Warc staff