US Online Retailers Ramping Up Global Expansion Efforts

By Elisabeth Lambert | 18 Oct 2010

According to a report by Forrester and, American retailers see the new frontier in online retailing lying across international borders, as they attempt to capitalise on the growing demands of foreign consumers.

For American retailers, the new frontier in online retailing lies across international borders, as they attempt to capitalise on the growing demands of foreign consumers. According to “The State Of Retailing Online 2010: Key Metrics, Multichannel, And Global Strategies” report, conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. for US online retail community, nearly three-quarters (73%) of retailers surveyed are already sending merchandise abroad from their distribution centre. An additional 17% have an established foreign warehouse in place. On average, US retailers that ship overseas report that approximately 5% of their revenue comes from foreign orders. The survey of 87 companies is part of “The State of Retailing Online” research series.

“International customers have visited US retail websites for years,” said Fiona Swerdlow, head of research for “While still in the early stages, US retailers are starting to monetize that traffic by meeting global consumer demand for their products and services, which in turn should help to bolster their bottom line.”

US retailers are still developing and testing their operations to sell to and service overseas customers. For example, when it comes to handling international returns, the survey found that nearly four out of 10 (37 percent) online retailers require customers to ship items to a returns centre in the retailer’s country of origin. An additional 12 percent of companies have an international returns centre located in their own country to handle foreign returns.

“A small but savvy group of web retailers is recognising the promising opportunity in international expansion,” said Sucharita Mulpulru, vice president, principal analyst, Forrester Research. “If executed successfully, selling globally can generate a healthy double-digit percent of sales. The global online population stands at 1.6 billion today, and the purchasing power of that group represents a significant opportunity for web-enabled businesses.”

Measuring Key Performance Indicators

Many online retailers are beginning to see their hard work pay off, as key performance indicators point to solid improvements in areas such as conversion and repeat customer rates. According to the survey, more than half (54 %) of retailers surveyed say they’ve seen increases in conversion rates over 2009.

The report also found the following regarding key performance indicators:

  • Recent developments in technology have made it easier for retailers to effectively cross-sell and upsell online. More than one-quarter (27%) of online retailers say they’ve seen increases in units per transaction, and nearly half (47%) have experienced a lift in their average order values.
  • Forty-five percent of retailers surveyed say they have seen increases in repeat customer rates.
  • Nearly one-third (31%) of survey respondents say they have seen a decrease in their shopping cart abandonment rates.

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