Cross-border e-commerce is growing despite trust issues

A new survey of 2,000 US and UK consumers by commerce experience platform Nosto found that 52% of consumers have purchased a product from an e-commerce site in another country in the last 12 months, with another 23% considering cross-border purchases.

However, the report also highlighted some concerns for shoppers shopping abroad, with 92% of respondents admitting concerns, issues with e-commerce returns (50%) and concerns about poor product quality (47%) or counterfeits (46%) were among the most important worries.

The study found that 60% of respondents were less likely to trust an international e-commerce store compared to a domestic one, and 71% were unlikely to give them a second chance after a poor shopping experience compared to domestic stores.

Even if they see products they like, several factors will discourage them from making cross-border purchases, such as the suspiciously low price of the products (44%); lack of clear information on additional cross-border fees/commissions (41%); return/refund policy (41%); and lack of clear details on delivery time to buyer’s country (39%).

Gaining trust

“At Nosto, we are seeing growing interest from sellers looking to sell cross-border in many markets around the world – and while this research suggests that many consumers are open to this, a lack of trust remains a significant barrier,” said Matthäus Bognar, general manager for EMEA and APAC in Nosto.

“If you are a retailer trying to sell internationally, you need to provide absolute clarity on all aspects of the purchase, delivery and returns process – including detailing any additional fees and local taxes – as well as providing strong local social proof.

“This includes displaying user-generated content (UGC) such as product reviews and photos from customers in the buyer’s country – a strong signal of trust. Providing a familiar online experience is also key, ensuring currencies, delivery times and product recommendations are based on the shopper’s location.

Focus areas

Nosto’s research highlights three key areas that merchants should focus on to build trust with cross-border customers.

  • Make key information visible and accessible: 69% of survey respondents said stores could increase trust by making policies on returns/refunds and additional cross-border taxes/duties clear and easy to find, and 65% said they would be more trusted if they were customer service telephone number in their country.
  • Provide localized social proof: 64% of consumers said they are more likely to trust brands if they see positive on-site reviews from other customers in their country, and 55% if they see on-site product photos from friends in their country who have purchased. Similarly, 52% said they are more likely to trust brands from other countries if they are active and positively mentioned on the social media channels they use, and if their products are positively mentioned by the influential people they follow (43%).
  • Increase confidence with on-site locations for an easy shopping experience. This includes automatically displaying prices in the buyer’s home currency (mentioned by 64% of respondents) and recommending appropriate products based on the buyer’s location (40%).

Lower prices

The main reason for shopping abroad is the desire to find cheaper products in cross-border e-commerce stores – 41% of respondents gave this reason, and 16% were looking for better quality products.

More than half (53%) said that rising prices in the domestic market also led them to look for products from other countries, and 29% said that they did not mind buying fake/fake branded products if they are available cheaper in the store online abroad, which means an increase to 45% for Generation Z (16-24 years old).

The marketing efforts of Chinese e-commerce marketplaces in the US and UK are generating interest, with over half (54%) of all consumers surveyed saying they had heard of online platforms such as Temu and AliExpress and would consider ordering from them if they had products were interested.

However, environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors remain important: 67% would not buy from stores affiliated with factories with forced labor or poor working conditions, and 49% agreed they were concerned about ordering international products online due to the impact of their transport on the environment.

An overview of the study results can be found at