Not long ago, it was a straightforward process for companies to go global. They picked the countries that showed high ecommerce potential—the options were limited—and they put a team on the ground. This took long planning periods and high up-front investments. Many companies shied away and gave a few brave ones the upper hand, including marketplaces that recognised international growth opportunities.

Today, we are in an ever-evolving, fast-paced environment, with new market dynamics, competition, and faster connectivity.  A new breed of digital consumer is growing quickly: the global cross-border shopper. This is good news for companies that are looking for additional growth. But just how big is this global opportunity? 

Accenture and AliResearch predict that the global business to consumer (B2C) cross-border ecommerce market will balloon in size from $230 billion in 2014 to $1 trillion in 2020. More than 900 million consumers, 45% of all online shoppers, will purchase products internationally on the web by 2020. 

From a market perspective, according to eMarketer 60% of all ecommerce is coming from APAC, with China playing the dominant role along with fast-growing markets such as India. Australia also adapted to cross-border shoppers early on. A 2018 PayPal cross-border study revealed that 54% of shoppers located in Australia have bought from overseas. The Americas, Europe and the Middle East are also strong contenders. 

Your business has likely seen international transactions coming from digital cross-border shoppers. CJ Affiliate network data shows that 96% of all advertisers show transactions from global shoppers. This low-hanging fruit is ripe for global opportunity. So, exactly who is the cross-border shopper?

Cross-border shoppers…shop outside their borders

Contrary to local shoppers who only shop in the market in which they live, cross-border shoppers make purchases in countries/regions outside of their core market. They value authentic products and are price sensitive. Cross-border shoppers are savvy enough to manoeuvre through non-localised sites and will accept shipping delays and/or find ways (e.g. freight forwarders or shopping concierges) to get their products shipped to them. They are also known global shopping events, such as Black Friday and Singles’ Day (Hint: Start planning now for these key Q4 shopping events!) 

In a study done by Pitney Bowes, they found that on average, retailers who were investing in cross-border shoppers saw that these shoppers had a 17% higher AOV. They were more profitable compared to their domestic shoppers, as return rates from cross-border shoppers tend to drop as well. Ultimately, these cross-border shoppers drive incremental growth to brands. 

With this new shopping persona, there is an opportunity all around the globe to get started to expand your business worldwide without high upfront costs. New digital payment options and solution providers make it more convenient to set up shop worldwide. In addition, cross-border order fulfilment service providers and innovative affiliates are making it much easier for advertisers to get started with international expansions compared to just a couple of years ago.

With all this global potential with cross-border shoppers, here are a few tips to help to get you started. 

Find out how global you are today

Use data and geo-location analytics to find out where your website/app visitors, customers/members are currently located. There are free tools such as SimilarWeb’s browser extension that can give you a high-level overview of the top countries coming to your website/app. 

Collaborate with partners also looking to expand

As you are thinking of expanding globally, so are your partners and service providers. Reach out to your partners and approach it from a collaborative point of view. No one has all the answers and/or tools, so this will help create a coherent win-win strategy for everyone.  

Understand the specific considerations that apply to your business

Depending on whether you are an advertiser, publisher, or network/agency/solution provider, there are different considerations. But first, one crucial consideration for EVERYONE looking to go global: Make sure you are globally privacy compliant, including target markets outside your country. In addition:


  • Track all global consumer transactions through an affiliate program.
  • Have a clear understanding of your international order/shipping/return policies.
  • Determine your global/local consumer focus: cross-border, local, or both.
  • Find out what products/services have converted best in a given country.
  • Work with other internal departments (finance, shipping, legal, etc) to ensure legitimate international orders are not cancelled by default, and that you have global shipping capabilities and/or can work with freight forwarders.


  • Track the global distribution of your audience and take any expansion plans into consideration.
  • Understand how your digital consumers interact within the countries/regions that you focus on. What is unique about their shopping behaviours? 
  • Determine the type of advertisers and offers that best convert with your local and/or cross-border audience. Then, run campaigns to introduce new advertiser products to those global audiences. 

Affiliate Network/Agencies/Solution Providers:

  • Determine your countries/regions of focus. 
  • Understand any new trends in these countries/regions.  
  • Know the top 50 advertisers and publishers for each of these countries/regions.
  • Decide the advertiser and publisher verticals focus on.
  • Learn the affiliate verticals that work best in your target countries/regions.
  • Understand the current affiliate landscape in each market. 
  • Create a plan for localisation, affiliate payout, and other areas of support. 
  • Secure proper program management and data science capabilities to create a customised global/country launch plan.
  • Enable network compliance for compliant traffic and transactions.

This list may seem daunting, but it is critical to understand the opportunity for your business and market nuances. Affiliate marketers need to remain agile in order to keep up with today’s new breed of digital consumers and the fast pace of global connectivity. If this is part of your toolset, you and your company are ready to take affiliate worldwide.