A strong and growing GDP per capita of over $56,000 and widespread use of English as a main language makes this multi-cultural market relatively easy to access.
Its sheer size does present some challenges, with most of the population either on the west coast or in the east of the country. Four main time zones can make providing customer support a challenge, but internal infrastructure generally supports rapid communications.
The following table offers a statistical overview of ecommerce in the US.
US consumers are adopting ecommerce, to the tune of $394bn in 2016. Additionally, 77% of online shoppers have said that they are open to shopping internationally and 42% have done so already. Yes, a proportion of this will be with their North American cousins in Canada but the UK, China and Australia are also favourite shopping destinations.
Key to international sales success in the US is the retail proposition. Customers expect to know the price they will be paying at checkout, have a choice of competitive delivery options (or better than domestic retailers), localised payment options and service levels that make a business stand out.
Ranked in 2015 as the number one country for ecommerce, the US is driven by consumer demand with overall retail worth $4.83 tn.
With Compound Annual Growth (CAGR) predicted for online sales as around 7.4%, it is worth noting that consumer electronics, clothing and personal care are expected to outperform the market with CAGR of around 10% each.
The main players in the ecommerce field are Amazon, eBay and Walmart, and desktop transactions still dominate the device landscape. However, mobile device usage is increasing, with 62% of online consumers having access to a tablet, suggesting that desktop dominance may be challenged over the coming years. In the meantime, desktop is favoured by cross-border shoppers.
The UK, China and Canada are top international destinations for US online shoppers. 77% of all online users are open to the idea of shopping internationally, whilst 42% have done so.
Peak trading periods are like other territories — the US is the ‘home’ of Black Friday. However, there are some differences that are worthy of note.
Digital advertising is particularly strong, with overall spend topping $67 bn in 2016. Retail is the biggest contributor to this, and whilst search represents 27% of this total, 47% was aimed at mobile formats, pointing to the potential for strong growth in these devices.
Google is key for an effective search strategy, although some data sets point to Amazon.com being the top consumer destination for product discovery in the US market; making a presence in their marketplace an attractive proposition.
Facebook dominates the social media landscape, and the increasing consumption of video through social platforms makes it – and others such as Snapchat – interesting marcomms channels.
Email is an attractive marketing tool, with average order values increasing to $116.10 in Q4 2016, and response rates of 3.7%.
Payments is dominated by credit cards, which account for 47% of all online retail transactions with PayPal, at over 20%, a requirement as well.
Fulfilment options are key to competing with domestic merchants. A blend of delivery options should be made available, with 5-7 days acceptable at an appropriate price point. It is important to clearly state what the delivery promise is and to consistently achieve this.
The legal situation is complicated by laws being set at Federal and State level. However, most consumer legislation is set at a state level, and areas such as returns requirements are left, predominantly, to the retailer. However, the wider market expectations will set these and often include ‘paid-for’ returns.
Taxation is a sales tax, and is paid for at point of consumption. 12,000 tax jurisdictions can make this a complicated area. However, imports of less than $800 FOB are duty- and tax-exempt.
Whilst the US is not one market, with careful planning and attention to the retail proposition, international merchants will find a willing audience; variety, choice and value are key to success.