As they gear up for what many expect to be a very robust holiday season, online retailers are increasingly looking beyond the U.S., according to a new study from Forrester Research and the National Retail Federation.
While 73% of online retailers say they already send products abroad from their home country's distribution center, 17% already have a foreign warehouse in place, hoping to tap into the world's 1.6 billion online consumers. And those that ship abroad say they get an average of about 5% of revenues from foreign sales.
The report, which is part of "The State of Retailing Online" research series, conducted by Forrester for Shop.org, the online division of the National Retail Federation, also reports that U.S.-based retailers are still in the early phases of figuring out the logistics of selling around the world. For example, 37% currently require customers who want to return an item use a returns center in the retailer's country of origin, while 12% have an international returns center located in their own country to handle foreign returns.
The report analyzed 87 online retailers and found the companies are beginning to see their efforts at site improvement pay off: Some 54% say they've increased conversion rates over 2009 levels, 27% have seen gains in units per transaction, 47% say the value of average orders has gone up, and 31% say they've seen a decline in shopping cart abandonment rates, a key measure of customer satisfaction.
Retailing experts are keeping a close eye on all e-tailing efforts, with online sales expected to be among the most robust sectors in the upcoming holiday season. Kantar Retailing, for example, which just released its holiday forecast, is predicting hefty growth.
"Online sales have been growing at double-digit rates recently due to a strong demand for e-book readers, e-books, smart phones, and other consumer electronics," it says in its release, which calls for a 2.5% gain in holiday spending overall. "This demand can be difficult to predict and represents a wildcard in our forecast."