Online shopping behaviours

Cross-border sales

Shoppers in Switzerland are buying more and more products from foreign ecommerce websites. Last year, the total value of online purchases Swiss consumers made abroad was worth CHF 1.3 billion, which corresponds to €1.22 bn.

That’s an increase of 18% compared to last year. According to some analysis, 10% of overall retail spend is spent abroad, both through physical and digital retail outlets. A core reason behind this is that prices in Switzerland can typically be 52% higher than in other countries, particularly near-European neighbours.

Figure 23:Online shoppers (16-65 y.o.) import/export via ecommerce shopping sites. Source: Netcomm Suisse.

Credit Suisse analysis suggest that by 2022, cross border ecommerce is expected to have a major share of key categories. For example, 38% of home electronics will be sourced from international merchants while 27% of clothing/fashion spend will be purchased in the same way.

Why did people purchase products online from foreign countries?

Figure 24. Why online shoppers purchase for international merchants. Source: Google Consumer Barometer. January 2018

The key factors involved in making the decision to purchase cross border are generally the same as any other retail purchase decision: price, availability and choice. However, as mentioned previously, there is a strong focus on price, particularly for commoditised products.

Figure 25. Frequency of international purchase. Source: Google consumer barometer. January 2018

Encouragingly for international merchants, 48% of online shoppers regularly purchase from an international merchant. Categories purchased are no surprise either, representing those that have often driven ecommerce adoption and development.

Figure 26. Popular product categories purchased cross-border. Source: Google Consumer Barometer, January 2018.

It is worth noting that the Swiss government is very aware that cross border shopping, both physical and digital, is leading to significant flows of money from the local economy. However, there is also a recognition that this also increases competition and can ensure that the home markets strive to be more competitive. The Government is however looking to remove some of the discrepancies, such as where VAT due is less than CHF 5, then goods are ‘waved’ through customs checks. For clothing, this could mean a consignment worth CHF 62.50, or for books, CHF 200.





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