International ecommerce

Cross-border e-commerce is the future. Here are the stats to prove it.

Cross-border e-commerce is the future. Here are the stats to prove it.
Madeleine Leddy
Written by
Madeleine Leddy
Madeleine Leddy
Written by
Madeleine Leddy
Madeleine Leddy
Reviewed by
Updated on
November 13, 2023

So you’ve started your online store. What’s next?

Whether you’re selling handbags, housewares, or homemade candles, you’d be cheating yourself out of a major market opportunity by not aiming to sell abroad. Consumers buy products online from other countries for an ever-widening variety of reasons, including—but not limited to—lower prices, brand availability, and product specialties abroad.

Being able to communicate with, and buy from, people from literally every country in the world is a beautiful concept. But it’s also ripe with complications—especially when it comes to that first part, communication (which is, in fact, also one of the key “4 C’s” of online marketing—with special implications for multilingual marketing). 

If you’re in the e-commerce game and considering taking the transnational plunge—e.g., offering international shipping and payments for your foreign customers—you’re making a solid, sustainable choice. Nevertheless, you’ll need to take some extra measures to adapt your business to the trans-border e-commerce world. For starters, it’s pretty crucial to go multilingual (which you can do on any site or e-commerce CMS with Weglot) to make sure your customers in all countries can access your products and understand your store.

Still not convinced you should make the transition to transnational? Have a look at some of the numbers we’ve rounded up below—you may change your mind.

1. Cross-border e-commerce is growing. Fast.

growth of international cross-border e-commerce - graph
Source: Invesp

In the grand, global scheme of things, the international cross-border e-commerce market estimated to surpass the €881 billion ($994 billion USD) mark in 2020, capping off what can only be described as a half-decade of impressive growth.

But this growth has a human-sized effect, too: market research firm Nielsen revealed in a recent worldwide study that at least 57% of individual shoppers have made a purchase from an overseas retailer in the last 6 months. 

This evidently has a positive impact on the businesses from whom they’re buying: 70% of retailers confirmed, in this study, that foraying into e-commerce has been profitable for them.

graphs - purchasing from overseas retailers
Sources: Nielsen & eMarketer/Payvision 

2. Shoppers prefer to buy in their own language.

It’s common sense: if a customer can’t decipher the details on a product page, they’re unlikely to hit “Add to Cart” (especially if “Add to Cart” is also illegible to them). There’s an aptly-titled study—“Can’t Read, Won’t Buy”—that goes into more detail about why this is true, and provides numbers to back it up.

Suffice it to say that most people—actually, 55% of people—around the world simply prefer to carry out their online shopping in their own language. It’s only natural, right?

graph - 55% of people prefer to buy in their own language
Source: CSA Research, “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy”

When you start planning out your cross-border conquest, you’ll want to think carefully about which markets in particular you’re trying to reach. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, language plays into this decision as well—but to different extents, depending on the culture and nature of the market in question.

So, which shoppers are the most apt to buy a product if it’s presented to them online in their native tongue?

French and German consumers come in at a tie for first, with 61% of online shoppers in these countries confirming their active preference for a native-language shopping experience online. Turkish internet-shoppers are close behind: 58% of Turkey’s browse-and-buyers would prefer to have their experience in Turkish.

France, Germany, Turkey: preference for native-language shopping
Source: CSA Research, “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy”

3. Multilingual e-commerce stores are still few and far between.

In spite of the growing demand for localized e-commerce options, the multilingual e-commerce Web is still lagging in volume. 

graph: percentage of multilingual e-commerce sites
Source: BuiltWith/Shopify

Only 2.45% of American e-commerce sites are available in more than one language—the most popular one being Spanish, in which 17% of this total are available.

Even in Europe, where cross-border commerce is much more commonplace, the numbers are low: only 14.01% of French e-commerce sites are available in languages other than French (the most common, unsurprisingly, is English) alongside another rather low 16.87% of German e-commerce sites (where English also takes home the gold for most common translation language).

top 3 translated languages for Ecommerce sites (US, FR, DE)
Source: Weglot data

4. Going multilingual is a recipe for profit.

The graphs don’t lie: there’s a serious lack of multilingual e-commerce possibilities for a ton of the world’s shoppers, in spite of a high demand from users for foreign products available in their own language(s).

Return on investment for site translation
Source: Adobe

The Localization Standards Association (LISA) released a recent study that spending the equivalent of €1 on localizing a website turns over an average of €25 in return on investment (ROI). 

What does this mean? Basically, more people buy more products when they can understand what’s on the product page.  It makes a lot of sense—and can also make your business a lot of money.

Localizing: a matter of life and death?

Okay, phrasing the issue this way may ring a bit dramatic. However, the above isn’t the only evidence that localization is becoming a vital step for businesses to remain viable—especially if it’s one of these six kinds of businesses, or even if you’re just looking to create added value for your customers.

And what better way to start localizing than with Weglot’s own handy guide to fine-tuning your localization strategy?  You’ll probably thank us later. So for now, you’re welcome—and enjoy.

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