The 2021 edition of the IPC Cross-Border E-Commerce Shopper Survey has reported that 44% of e-commerce consumers globally say they have changed their online shopping behaviors due to sustainability concerns.
Similarly, 49% of participants stated that they would prefer their cross-border parcels to be carbon-neutral. Consumers have also expressed concerns about how sustainable the packaging of their online purchases was, with 70% stating that they would like their packaging materials to be recyclable, 65% wanting their packaging to be reusable and 50% wanting their packaging to be biodegradable. More than half (55%) stated that they would like e-retailers to provide clear information about how to recycle their packaging when shopping online.
Online shoppers worldwide continued to use e-commerce giants like Amazon, AliExpress and eBay to make most of their online purchases, with Amazon accounting for 26%, AliExpress 19% and eBay 10%. Between 2019 and 2021, both Wish and eBay lost significant cross-border market share, while Amazon increased in several countries. Chinese clothing e-retailer Shein has also increased significantly from 0% in 2019 to 3% in 2021. Amazon was most popular in Luxembourg (59%), Austria (54%) and India (51%) whereas AliExpress was most popular in Russia (74%), Lithuania (51%) and Poland (43%). Comparatively, eBay was highest in Australia (33%), the UK (28%) and Croatia (24%).
The survey also revealed that consumers have continued to shop regularly online throughout changing Covid-19 restrictions, with 22% of consumers shopping online at least once a week. The number has remained the same after an increase in the number of people turning to online shopping due to lockdowns. Overall, 79% of consumers tended to shop online once a month, continuing the trend of e-commerce becoming the preferred way to shop. However, although more are choosing to shop online, it has been predicted that many will choose to shop online from domestic e-retailers rather than cross-border e-retailers in the future, with 27% of respondents stating they will buy much more domestically.
The data demonstrated that overall consumers are happy with deliveries, however more are returning cross-border purchases. Participants of the survey were asked how long their purchase took to arrive, and the most common answer was 2-3 days (17%), with 4-5 days coming in secon (16%). Delivery speed improved in 2021 compared to 2020, as delivery providers recovered from the pandemic’s impact on international logistics.
Almost half (46%) of the respondents stated that they were either “extremely or very satisfied” with the speed at which their package was delivered. The survey also showed that more than half of consumers were “extremely or very satisfied” with all other aspects of the delivery process (delivery location, delivery cost, returns, customs, parcel tracking and delivery speed). The returning of e-commerce shopping items rose to 14% this year, with consumers from the USA (27%), Australia (25%) and the UK (24%) returning the most. Looking at the 25 trend countries, the proportion returning their entire purchase increased from 5% in 2020 to 9% in 2021, while those returning part of their purchase increased from 4% in 2020 to 6% in 2021.
According to the results, Brexit and new EU legislation has also caused both China and the UK to lose ground as top online shopping hubs. The survey analyzed how consumers were affected by both the UK leaving the European Union and the introduction of customs fees and removal of VAT exemption for low-value items coming into the EU. Approximately 40% of respondents stated the new VAT rules have impacted their cross-border purchases, with over half stating that the value of items purchased has increased and/or that they have now pay additional custom fees compared to previous years.
Overall, the introduction of the new laws has seen a significant increase in the number of people who have had to pay e-commerce related fees, with 21% having paid import fees for purchases this year compared to 13% in 2020. Since the increase in customs and import fees, the report has shown that China has dropped by approximately 3% from 17 of the 40 countries surveyed as the most recent country of purchase; and within Europe, the UK dropped as the country of most recent purchase in five countries.
The survey was conducted with 33,000 participants in 40 countries worldwide, accounting for 93% of the global e-commerce market. Alongside looking at the impact of new legislation, the survey monitored current and future e-commerce trends and sustainability preferences.
Holger Winklbauer, IPC CEO, said, “The IPC Cross-Border E-Commerce Shopper Survey continues to provide invaluable insights for the postal industry and remains one of the largest of its kind. This edition has shown for the first time the impact of both Brexit and EU tax changes on consumer shopping habits. E-commerce has long cemented itself as the backbone of the postal industry, therefore it is vital the posts are able to understand and adapt to the ever-growing needs and concerns of its customers.”