Tablet, Laptop, or Mobile? The most popular device by country and how it affects cross border e-commerce success

2018-12-11T20:20:55-03:00December 11th, 2018|News|

It’s hard to talk about cross border e-commerce without discussing m-commerce. Last year, global consumers spent $22.64 trillion online, 58.9% over mobile. From 2016 to 2017, worldwide m-commerce sales rose 40.3%, with the highest spending in China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Increased internet connection — regardless of device — always means more revenue for the e-commerce industry.  Where tablet or mobile shopping is prevalent, retailers should use adaptive web design to guarantee a positive user experience. And in countries with low banking penetration, mobile heavy sales could indicate the need to offer different payment options. In Malaysia, for example, up to a third of consumers do not have a traditional bank account. But half of the population shops online, 62% by mobile. According to payment platform provider Ayden, mobile-centric payment options make this shopping possible. High cell phone penetration can also point toward growing social media-centric sales: In Thailand more than half of e-commerce consumers buy through platforms like Line (a local WhatsApp alternative) and others.

Here’s a closer look at 10 of the world’s highest growth potential m-commerce markets:


Per the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, Australians are expected to increase m-commerce spending by 50% this year, to a total of $7.7 billion, and 79% of Australians shop online. As almost every single Australian owns a cell phone, the Department of Commerce notes “mobile payments and purchasing is a major strategy for all retailers.” 


Brazilians may have started using mobile devices later than other countries, but they now have one of the world’s largest penetration rates. Payment platform provider Ayden says there are nearly two mobiles in use for every person, around 400 million total. As a result, m-commerce is growing. 18.6% of all consumers shopped on their phones in 2015, but by the end of 2017, that figure was projected at nearly 60%, more than 100 million people.

For consumer goods sales, mobile is even more important. Approximately 31% of the sector’s 2017 online revenue came from smartphone and tablet. Accordingly, the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration recommends, “US companies looking to sell in Brazil should prioritize the mobile experience.”


In Canada, device preference varies by age: In 2016, only a quarter of the population shopped by mobile, but 41% of Millennials (ages 18-34) did. Today Canadians use a range of devices, with 40% now turning to mobile to make purchases, having increased from 12% in 2014. Computers remain the e-commerce tool of choice, however, with 83% of shoppers making purchases via computer over the past 12 months.  

While m-commerce is growing, this growth does not mean Canadians shop over social media: Research firm The NPD Group says almost half of consumers do not want retail ads in their feeds. While shoppers are becoming more accustomed to them over time, market your products to Canadians via social with caution.


Approximately half of all Chinese e-commerce sales come from m-commerce, nearly 16% higher than the global average per the US-China Business Council. A disproportionate amount of mobile transactions happen on Singles’ Day, a November 11 holiday and China’s busiest shopping event of the year. Some e-retailers even generate up to 80% of their annual revenue, with Alibaba alone taking in $30.8 billion this year. The company’s yet to share 2018 device statistics, but last year, 90% of purchases were made via mobile. This is up from 43% in 2015.

These numbers are high, but not unbelievable as China is a mobile-first market for all internet access. Last year, the country drove 67.1% of the world’s cell phone-based sales. By 2021, this revenue is projected to nearly triple to $2.595 trillion. If you want to gain ground in China, you’ll need to focus your efforts on mobile.


France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are the three largest m-commerce markets in Europe, with total sales of 85 billion euros expected this year. France’s purchasing volume is smallest, but the country’s m-commerce sales are growing at 27%, higher than the western European average.

Here, “click and reserve” shopping is popular: Customers use their phones to complete every step except final payment, then move in-store or to a computer to finish. User interface consistency and the ability to save carts are therefore vital. According to research firm eMarketer, the French use click and reserve to avoid problems commonly faced on a phone (e.g., payment processing and delivery scheduling) that are better addressed on a computer or in a store. Improved user experience and simpler cart design could increase conversion.


Mobile sales in Germany are higher than in France, but overall revenue growth is trending below average. For western Europe as a whole, current m-commerce sales rates are growing at 19.3%. In Germany, it’s 14.9%.

Don’t take this as an indication of lower e-commerce potential, though. Germany is the birthplace of GDPR, a national data privacy standard recently adopted across the entire European Union and the United States. Research firm eMarketer mentions these privacy and security concerns as one possible cause for consumer truculence toward smartphone shopping, especially in light of the country’s robust, PC-driven market: Last year, Germans spent 93 billion euros online. Interesting to note: mobile-based purchasing is higher among women, particularly on fashion and book sites.


M-commerce growth in Japan is so strong, the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration says it “cannot be ignored.” With almost 60% of all e-commerce transactions over mobile, retailers Amazon Japan, Rakuten, and Zozo have recently focused on making mobile shopping more accessible. “Japanese direct marketers use websites optimized for both PC and mobile devices to reach consumers,” Commerce says, “US exporters wishing to sell products targeting young Japanese will need to optimize their platforms for mobile access.”


Internet access in Russia has been on the rise since 2009, finally reaching penetration rates similar to those of the United States last year. This has given birth to a small but burgeoning e-commerce market: Sales only account for 6% of total retail, but 21% of Russians (approximately 30 million people) shop online and 40% of orders were over mobile.

Regarding app versus browser purchases, according to a Criteo Report, Russian m-commerce is split: 53% of consumers prefer browsers. Mass merchant is the most popular mobile category, taking 42% of sales, and consumers are more likely to buy by phone on nights and weekends. During the day, computer access is more popular; on Sundays, tablet shopping spikes.

United Kingdom

Cell phone acquisition may have slowed down in the UK, but that doesn’t mean Brits use those phones any less. Research firm Deloitte calculates the average resident spends 148 minutes on her phone every day, touching it 2,617 times. As a result, 49.7% of all purchases happen on a smartphone. With revenues totaling more than $115 billion the first half of 2018, the UK e-commerce and m-commerce markets are undeniably the largest in Europe, outpacing both Germany and France with higher spending than the two combined. While apps are popular, 37% of consumers opt for shopping on browsers over apps. Ecommerce News Europe reports Brits are actually more browser-inclined than any other m-commerce market in the world.

Watch out for high cart abandonment, though, as 42% of British retailers say at least 10% of customers bail at check-out. While unexpected prices, shipping issues, and other factors weigh into this, Ecommerce News Europe points to poor mobile user experience, noting 31% of UK-based consumers will pay more if it means an improved, smartphone shopping experience.

United States

As cell phones grow in size, so does the American m-commerce market. “Larger smartphones are better enabling activities such as shopping and more consumers are responding by using their mobile device to make purchases,” says John Buffone, executive director of information consultancy NPD Connected Intelligence. As a result, 45% of mobile device users now use those phones to shop online.

Tablet shopping, though, is down three percentage points over last year. Only 36% of Americans use tablets for online shopping, with even fewer purchases from the 18-34 year-old demographic.

Computers remain most popular: When NPD Connected Intelligence polled 5,420 consumers, 65% said it’s their e-commerce device of choice.


As you plan for international expansion in 2019, make sure you consider your mobile shopping strategy and experience to maximize your efforts in global markets.  For more information on how to sell to customers in different markets, check out our series of eBooks available on our Resources page, including for the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Written by
Juliana Pereira is Vice President, Marketing at Flow Commerce. With 15 years experience in marketing and ecommerce, Juliana joined the Flow team after serving as Vice President of Marketing at Smartling. Previously Juliana worked across a variety of verticals and industries, from non-profits and publishing to tech and fashion, including management positions and key contributing roles at Ralph Lauren, The Met Store online (at The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Ziff Davis, and eMusic.