One of the consequences of the globalisation of commerce, accelerated considerably by digital technology, is that it has to a certain extent standardised the cultures that exist around retail and shopping.
Most places you go in the world these days, there are supermarkets, shopping malls and retail parks all sticking to a recognisable model of provision. From fashion to electronic goods to groceries, consumers are increasingly looking for similar products and are influenced in their purchasing decisions in similar ways.
In digital commerce, things have gone even further. With the internet breaking down the trade barriers posed by national borders, online retailers have literally found themselves operating in a global market, with open access to customers the world over. Big-name players - the likes of Amazon, eBay and Alibaba to name three - have swooped to take advantage, setting their sights on establishing global digital retail empires, further unifying how we shop and where we shop.
So just how far has this process gone? How similar is online consumer behaviour across different countries, and does everyone shop in the same places?
Evidence in this area has not been readily available in the past. But this year, Wunderman Thompson Commerce expanded its annual market survey of digital consumer attitudes and behaviour to take a purposefully multinational perspective. For our Future Shopper 2019 report, we cast our net further afield, interviewing more than 15,000 regular online shoppers from eight nations - the US, UK, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Czech Republic (Czechia).
This exercise has thrown up some fascinating and important insights into patterns of behaviour in online shopping across different markets, making essential reading for any brand or retailer with international ambitions for their digital commerce operations. Here are some of the highlights of what we found.
AMAZON STRONGHOLDS AND BEYOND
Once again, Amazon emerged from our survey as the dominant presence in eCommerce in Europe and the US. According to our respondents, the marketplace giant accounts for more than a third of their total online spend (36%) – that’s more than all retailer sites (18%) and brand sites (15%) put together.
However, what is clear from this year’s survey is that Amazon’s influence is by no means distributed evenly across markets. In fact, we found some very sharp contrasts. For example, Amazon dominates online spend in four countries, commanding roughly half of all digital commerce turnover in the US, Germany (both 52%), Spain (48%) and France (47%). But in The Netherlands, respondents told us they spent just 9% of their digital shopping budgets on Amazon, and in Czechia, the figure was just 4%.
What we did find across markets was a direct correlation between spend on Amazon, Amazon Prime membership and use of Amazon as a first port of call to search for products. So, in the US and Germany, where average spend on Amazon was the highest, 68% and 61% of respondents said they were Prime members (the figure was also 68% in Spain). Moreover, 79% of respondents in those two countries said they most often used Amazon to start product searches (80% in Spain). So where Amazon is best established, it has a considerable chunk of the shopping journey sewn up - search, spend and loyalty.
Not surprisingly, it is a completely different picture in The Netherlands and Czechia. Just one in five Dutch shoppers are Amazon Prime members, and just one in 20 Czech shoppers. Only 13% of Dutch respondents said they used Amazon most to search for products, and only 4% in Czechia.
So, do markets where Amazon’s presence is underdeveloped spell opportunity for other retailers and brands looking to steal a march? Yes and no. Certainly in the Czech Republic, Amazon’s low profile is to the advantage of retailer sites and own brand direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels, which command 33% and 22% of online consumer spend - both highs across all eight markets we surveyed. But in The Netherlands, it is other, local marketplaces which hold the trump card, commanding 45% of total online spend - double the average across all countries for non-Amazon marketplaces.
We also found evidence that, once Amazon does establish itself in a market, there is a degree of self-perpetuation about its success. In the US, Germany, France and Spain - the four countries with the highest proportion of Prime members - appreciably more respondents told us that they wished other online retail outlets offered Prime-like services such as next-day delivery. It was a similar story for the number of consumers who said they used Amazon to check prices and reviews while they shopped elsewhere - 79% in Spain, 77% in the US, 76% in Germany and 75% in France. Interestingly, however, more than half of respondents in each of these four countries said they were worried about Amazon dominating eCommerce.
In the second part of our article, we look more closely at the services consumers told us really mattered to them when shopping online, and where they go for inspiration. Read it here.
If you’ve not got a copy yet, make sure to download The Future Shopper 2019 here to get the full picture of consumer attitudes and trends across international markets, leading with UK and US.
Written by Patrick Munden
Chief Growth Officer
Patrick is a renowned spokesperson for the digital commerce industry and an authority on online retail including peak trading, and the value of partnerships to inspire eCommerce growth.
A note about the Future Shopper 2019 survey
Research for this Future Shopper 2019 report was conducted by independent research consultancy Censuswide. A total of 15,188 consumers, who shop online at least once a month were surveyed, across 8 international markets, led by UK and US.