Your international business expansion plan depends on what you sell and where.

To succeed at cross border e-commerce, brands and retailers need to identify which global markets are interested in their goods and services. There are distinct differences in cross-border e-commerce demand by country – and as we’ve covered before, some products are even banned or restricted in certain countries. In some markets, goods might fly out of your fulfillment center, while in others, the same inventory could end up languishing in a warehouse. As an international business, it’s up to you to understand the unique needs in each market and ensure that your localized e-commerce site is offering the right mix of products.

Our experts at Flow examined the hottest merchandise in the top nine global markets (excluding the United States) to understand how the demand for goods varies by location. In all nine of these global markets, clothing and footwear reign supreme, but there are some variations in other categories that brands and retailers should note.

Review the list to help pinpoint which markets make the most sense for your brand’s global expansion initiative:

  1. China: Shoppers here are most interested in Western clothing, shoes and accessories, but are also eager to purchase international foods and personal care items. A 2017 study by Royal Mail noted that nearly two out of three e-commerce consumers in China have purchased clothing online; 51% have purchased specialty food or beverages, and 44% have bought footwear.
  2. United Kingdom: Top online items include clothing and sporting goods, household goods such as furniture, holiday accommodations and travel tickets, and film/entertainment products such as downloadable movies. IMRG reports that in 2016, accessories and lingerie experienced a surge compared to previous years. Find out more about what it takes to sell in the U.K. in our new ebook [URL to UK ebook landing page].
  3. Japan: The product with the highest demand in Japan is clothing. Traditionally, Japan has been a top global market for luxury brands, but more recently, retailers offering private-label products are seeing an uptick in demand. Toys, DIY and hobby-related items are also trending here. Interestingly, South Korean fashion is becoming a popular choice in this market.
  4. Germany: Apparel is the most popular product category in Germany, followed by consumer media such as books and movies, home electronics and personal care items. German consumers are very open to cross border e-commerce, with more than 50% of shoppers making purchases from international retail websites.
  5. France: According to the Ecommerce Foundation’s 2018 Ecommerce Report on France, in 2017, 75% of online purchases came from China; 41% were delivered from the U.S., and 27% were from “other foreign companies.” Top goods for French consumers to buy online include clothing, digital media, health and beauty, travel and tourism and children’s games and toys.
  6. South Korea: According to, clothing is currently the leading product category in South Korea, followed by grocery and specialty foods, sporting goods, and home electronics and appliances. toys, hobby and DIY- related goods.
  7. Benelux: The Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) have considerable spending power. The Benelux Retail 2025 Report states that from 2016-2017, Benelux e-commerce consumers spent the most on clothing (57%), home goods (14%), and DIY-related items and gardening products (12%).
  8. Scandinavia: According to Web Retailer, top-selling goods via e-commerce in this region are clothing and footwear, followed by media/entertainment and home electronics. Among younger consumers, health and beauty products are popular choices for online shopping. It’s worth noting that of the five countries that make up Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland), consumers in Denmark dominate online shopping, spending more per capita than the other nations with an average spend of 2,208 Swedish krona per consumer (€216).
  9. Russia: Online shoppers in Russia are fond of clothing and footwear, followed by smartphones and tablets, baby products, cosmetics and home and garden items. Practical Ecommerce notes that the online alcohol industry is a niche market in this country that is starting to gain ground: online sales of wine and spirits, excluding beer, grew by 18% in 2017 over the previous year.

Keep in mind that these top global markets are highly competitive, so simply providing the products that consumers want won’t be enough to catapult your international marketplace into success. Brands and retailers who offer a localized experience throughout the entire customer journey, including frictionless checkout and multiple, personalized touch points along the way, will have the advantage.


To find out more about how Flow’s flexible cross border e-commerce console can help, contact us to schedule a demo.