Using Email to Retarget Cross-Border E-Commerce Customers: Stats and Strategies

Seasoned e-tailers know that abandoned online shopping carts can provide a golden opportunity to connect with customers who may be on the fence. More often than not, this is accomplished by way of varying retargeting and recapturing tools, the most basic of these being email.

While research has proven that email is an effective means by which to recapture abandoned carts, global retailers using email as a tool to retarget cross-border customers will occasionally be met with some unique challenges. (Learn more about counteracting international shopping cart abandonment in our recent blog series, here.)

To this end, global e-tailers may benefit from arming themselves with a few relevant stats and strategies.

Key stats.

European shoppers are more likely to follow through with cross-border purchases when there’s clarity surrounding return policies.


As you craft your cross-border customers’ retargeting emails, here’s something to think about: B2C Europe recently conducted a survey of over 2,000 cross-border shoppers in the EU to learn what drives their cross-border purchasing motivations and challenges, with special emphasis on e-commerce returns. Their results suggested that 36% of European shoppers would be more likely to complete purchases on cross-border e-commerce sites if there was more clarity surrounding return policies.


Source: B2C Europe. “Making money out of returns: The essential guide to managing international returns.” Accessed April 3, 2017.


Marketing email open rates vary considerably from region to region—

IBM Marketing Cloud recently published another highly relevant guide with data on international email marketing entitled, “2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study.” This study compares data across 750 companies and over 3,000 brands from 2015, both by region, and by category.


Source: IBM Marketing Cloud: “2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study.” Accessed April 3, 2017.

According the data, open rates vary significantly from region to region, with Australia and New Zealand at the top for the top quartile, and the Middle East and North Africa with some of the lowest for the bottom quartile.

Additionally (according to this specific survey) it would appear that Commonwealth countries and countries with higher instances of English literacy exhibit generally higher email open rates. From this, we might assume that the emails studied for this survey could have primarily been in English, and well-localized for the regions in which they were delivered.


—and industry to industry.



Source: IBM Marketing Cloud: “2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study.” Accessed April 3, 2017.

We just observed that the differences in marketing email open rates between Oceania and MENA are significant—an important consideration.

However, note the differences in email open rates between industries. According to the data, retail e-commerce marketing emails experience some of the lowest open rates. This suggests a serious challenge to companies in the e-commerce space—challenges which may be overcome by companies who invest time crafting effective international email retargeting strategies.


63% of cross-border, online shoppers have visited a retailer’s brick-and-mortar store abroad before they felt comfortable purchasing from them online.


While many cross-border customers are reaching out to your website because of product pricing, availability, or perceptions of quality, some research suggests that a prior physical, in-store visit (perhaps while on a trip abroad) may also drive customers to make purchases from e-commerce sites outside their region.

As many as 63% of cross-border online shoppers (and as high as 84% of total shoppers) say they visited a retailer’s physical store before they felt comfortable buying from them online. Pitney Bowes refers to this phenomenon as “in-store global, online local” in their 2016 online shopping report, “Global E-commerce Continues to Rise.”


Armed with information, here are a few important tactics you may want to try in order to evolve your company’s international retargeting email strategy, and increase conversion rates:

  1. Remind customers (Europeans, especially) of your return policy. In general though, many consumers will want to know exactly how your return policy works, how much it costs, and if they can use the same shipping and packing materials to return goods. Specify all of these things, and provide options such as scheduling return pick-ups, or allowing customers to ship goods back.
  2. Remind customers about the in-store shopping experience and your brand’s quality—especially for your online customers in Asia. Pitney Bowes estimates that 84% of Chinese shoppers, 82% of Indian shoppers, and 75% of Korean cross-border e-commerce shoppers have been to physical store locations while traveling, and therefore are more likely to shop cross-border online (see page 3 of their 2016 shopping survey).
  3. Reassure customers of your trustworthiness. Emphasizing transparency and localization will help customers feel that, even though your company may be far away, they can rely on local payment methods (and policies) and reliable shipping. Consider including trust marks at the bottom of your retargeting emails. (Know that, some trustmarks are considered more reliable than others, depending upon the region: see our international trust tips blog post for more on this.)
  4. In any email communication, consider including reviews from other cross-border shoppers either from that country, or the region. More importantly, make these available in the local language.


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