International Online Shopping Expected to Almost Triple in Next 5 Years

Consumers are increasingly looking to buy goods across international borders, both to save money and to gain access to a greater variety of items.

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By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For consumers, the world is shrinking. For entrepreneurs, that's an opportunity to grow sales.

International online shopping in six major markets is expected to exceed $105 billion in 2013, according to data released today by online payment processor PayPal. That estimate totals cross-border commerce in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, mainland China and Brazil. Across those six major markets, an estimated 94 million consumers will buy goods from overseas websites this year, the report says.

Consumers go to international e-commerce stores to save money and gain access to a variety of goods that they can't get locally, the PayPal report says.

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The trend is expected to accelerate. In the next five years, annual international online shopping is expected to reach $307 billion in those six markets, nearly triple the estimate for this year, the report says. And the number of consumers buying goods from international sites is expected to increase to 130 million, the report estimates.

Approximately 6,000 cross-border online shoppers were surveyed at the end of May and early June for the report.

"The emergence of these 'modern spice routes' is great news for businesses the world over," says David Marcus, PayPal's president, in a written statement. "Our message to merchants is if you are looking for new ways to grow your sales, especially in an economic downturn, start selling directly to 94 million cross-border shoppers in these six markets and own a piece of this $105 billion market."

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Among the six markets in the study, Chinese consumers demand the greatest share of American goods. Here's a look at how much money online shoppers will spend on U.S. goods in 2013 by country, according to the report:

China: $12.4 billion
U.K.: $5.5 billion
Germany: $2.4 billion
Australia: $2.3 billion
Brazil: $561 million

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International Online Shopping Expected to Almost Triple in Next 5 Years

Source: PayPal

The most popular items bought from international websites in the six markets were clothes, shoes and accessories. Here's how much was spent on a range of American goods by cross-border shoppers over the past year, according to the report:

Clothes, shoes and accessories: $4.9 billion
Health and beauty products: $2.6 billion
Jewelry, gems and watches: $2.5 billion
Personal electronics: $2 billion
Home electronics: $2 billion

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Cross-border online shopping is expected to grow as people everywhere become more confident about making online purchases from overseas merchants. While international consumers will purchase $23.2 billion in U.S. goods in 2013, according to the survey, they are expected to spend $83.4 billion on American goods by 2018.

Entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses into international e-commerce are going to have to earn consumers' trust. Sixty-nine percent of online cross-border shoppers say their biggest fear is identity theft and fraud. What's more, nearly nine in 10 shoppers say that buyer protection against loss is critical when they are buying a good across international borders, the report finds.

Related: Senate Confirms Richard Cordray to Lead U.S. Consumer Protection Agency

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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