Leveraging cross-border e-commerce for a seamless holiday shopping experience

Delivering a frictionless cross-border e-commerce experience should come with fast, convenient, and secure online payment methods. 

The retail industry has seen a boom amidst the gradual economic recovery, and with that, businesses and consumers alike are now gearing up for the holiday shopping season. 

With the increased adoption of online shopping, including cross-border e-commerce, the virtual space has become a vital element of the retail industry due to the convenience and variety of choices it offers customers.  

Increased customer expectations and demand for convenience means that online merchants must deliver a seamless shopping experience, especially during the peak holiday rush. 

Singapore Business Review, in partnership with PayPal, recently held a webinar titled “Selling cross-border this holiday season”, where PayPal Director of Enterprise Sales in Southeast Asia Rakesh Krishnamuti, discussed the trend of digitalisation and how PayPal’s full-stack payments platform is being leveraged for cross-border expansion.

Looking into digitalisation for cross-border expansion

Whilst Krishnamuti recognised how the impacts of the pandemic have accelerated the e-commerce industry by around three to five years, he noted that the increase in online shopping behaviour was “truly mind-blowing.”  

PayPal’s data* revealed that in 2020 alone, global online retail sales grew from US$3.35t to about US$4.38t. The rapid growth of e-commerce also coincides with online consumers becoming more comfortable shopping cross-border, with 68% of online shoppers surveyed stating that they are as or are more comfortable cross-border shopping now than before COVID-19. Moreover, 52% of those surveyed shop from both domestic and international sites.

As for factors influencing customer behaviour, the survey showed that attractive pricing and exclusive items draw online shoppers to shopping cross-border, whilst shipping costs, delivery times, and uncertainty were cited as the most common barriers to cross-border shopping.

“You also need to allay their fears about shipping costs and time through clear communication, whilst concerns about non-delivery can be addressed through the availability of shipping tracking software,” Krishnamuti said.

Given the factors that influence consumers to shop cross-border, Krishnamuti pointed out that shopping during the holiday season is becoming an increasingly significant opportunity for retailers since this is usually connected with the search for better prices. He cited the examples of Black Friday, the global shopping phenomenon, in which 38% of those surveyed participated, and China’s Singles’ Day, which draws about 45% of the online shoppers in China .

Similarly, Krishnamuti said that some seasonal occasions are growing as online shopping events, as well. He mentioned Diwali in India, where a whopping 71% of consumers said they shopped online during the event.

“I think there will probably be a blurring of lines between what is really offline [which is seasonal] versus an online shopping event. Now, whether combined into one way, people are seeing more ability and more propensity to shop online,” he said.

Krishnamuti also said that merchants looking to boost their sales in the US market should not underestimate the power of social media, as most American cross-border online shoppers make purchases via online marketplaces, or direct from stores and retail websites, and many discovered international websites through social channels.

“The influence of social media is likely to grow as they look to discover new brands in a digital-first world. So by making social media central to your cross-border sales strategy, you use an established part of the US retail cable to reach a highly engaged consumer base,” he said.

For brands aiming to expand their cross-border capabilities, Krishnamuti emphasised that retailers can boost their brand recognition through social media and create a seamless end-to-end shopping experience. Partnering with reputable payment solutions providers like PayPal can also provide them with a trusted and secure path to checkout.

“As more consumers seek to connect, browse, purchase and pay using their mobile devices, ensure your e-commerce site is intuitive, responsive, and secure with a frictionless checkout process. To give consumers shopping cross-border an easy and familiar domestic site experience, consider incorporating duties and taxes into your product prices,  offering local currency payment options and collaborating with credible payment solution providers. ,” he added.

Cross-border commerce trends for online fashion retailers

For ZALORA Senior Strategy Director Quiron Cunha, online fashion consumers have different demand and expectations, for example, they are now thinking less about going into the site to select the products on the catalogue and trying to have the best fit, and more on having an experience that they would enjoy on the website, they understand the products and have different sorts of experience.

The online fashion and lifestyle retailer has invested in its livestream platform, with the intent to break “a little bit” of the gap between the online space and what consumers see on the ground, wherein they can ask questions and understand more about the product, as well as interact with the sellers.

At the same time, they have also utilised AR/VR to provide shoppers with a better shopping experience through these technologies, which are now more evident in today’s retail world. Bridging the offline to online experience has always been a challenge for online retailers, with the rise of new technologies, ZALORA is slowly closing the gap with an enhanced virtual experience.

Amongst other trends, Cunha emphasised sustainability strategies as something most consumers are now looking for with the advent of online selling. “It's a trend because it is the right thing to be done, and I think all the players should be looking at it,” he said.

Maximising revenue growth during the holiday season 

Meanwhile, PayPal Head of Sales & Strategic Growth in Southeast Asia Pooja Sanan shared some tips for businesses looking to seize the opportunity in the behaviour shift of consumers this holiday season.

Firstly, she mentioned that retailers can maximise sales by reducing cart abandonment—a problem that plagues retailers all year round, but more so during the holiday season. “To deliver an optimal user experience, we want to make sure that every interaction that we have, and every touchpoint is,  a pleasant experience,” Sanan said.

This can be aided by having the right payment provider for a seamless and safe checkout experience that works across devices, with payments now being an integral part of the online shopping experience.

Moreover, Sanan advised retailers to engage customers with personalised holiday incentives. 

“It's quite key in our opinion that we offer a great opportunity to our consumers to have that personal gift at the right price point. With shoppers feeling really festive, they will spend the money and will return for more. ” Sanan added.


* PayPal’s 2021 Borderless Commerce Report - Insider Intelligence/eMarketer, Retail Ecommerce Sales Worldwide, 2019-2024, 12 Dec 2020 

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