PayPal Unveils Modern Spice Routes

eBay Inc. Staff

For centuries, the Romans, the Chinese and other great world powers established trade posts across the globe to exchange valuable goods, foodstuffs and raw materials. In today’s world, businesses of all sizes have a modern equivalent: online cross-border trade.

According to a new PayPal-commissioned report entitled “Modern Spice Routes: The Cultural Impact of Cross-Border Shopping,” residents of six key markets around the world — the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, China and Brazil — are rapidly increasing how much they buy directly from foreign merchants. The cross-border online shopping market across these six markets has 93.7 million consumers spending U.S. $105 billion on overseas websites in 2013, representing 16% of overall online shopping spend this year.

The report also reveals significant insights about cross-border shoppers and their payments preferences, including:

  • In the six markets analyzed, cross-border online shopping will be worth $114 billion (AUD $1.141 bn) this year, with 94 million consumers regularly buying from overseas websites.
  • By 2018, this will increase nearly 200% to $307 billion, with 130 million cross-border online shoppers.
  • Top purchase categories for cross-border shoppers across the 6 markets are: clothes, shoes and accessories ($12.5 billion); health and beauty products ($7.6 billion); personal electronics ($6 billion); computer hardware ($6 billion); jewellery, gems and watches ($5.8 billion); and home electronics ($5.4 billion).
  • Top reasons for shopping online from overseas merchants are: “buying online to save money” (80%) and “more variety that cannot be found locally” (79%). Cross-border shoppers are not just looking for an online discount, but also searching overseas for high-quality, authentic items.
  • Safety and trust are key drivers, with 9 out of 10 claiming buyer protection is critical.

“Cross-border trade is nothing new. Our local stores are filled with goods from around the world. What is new is how easy it has become for consumers to shop online directly from merchants around the world and the massive opportunity that represents,” said David Marcus, president of PayPal.

To learn more about the emergence of today’s modern spice routes, please check out