Over the past few years, extensive media coverage has been dedicated to the billions of dollars that tourists spend while shopping in the US and what retailers are doing to cater to these foreign buyers. Coverage of this trend has often focused on Brazilian and Chinese shoppers in major US cities (with travelers from both Brazil and China having been dubbed “walking stimulus packages”), but tourist shopping is not just relegated to large urban centers. Retailers in a variety of areas are looking to tap into the rising middle class of consumers abroad, many of whom are taking advantage of relaxed visa restrictions or circumventing sky-high prices in their home countries.

Increasingly, retailers are looking at ways to engage these shoppers, with some turning to the online channel:

Retailers are starting to woo customers online even before take-off. Retailers have taken to streamlining shopping for these high-spending tourists: Bloomingdale’s, for example, promises translators in nine languages and free package delivery to hotels for purchases over $250 in New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco. But while other retailers are also working to win over travelers once they’re in the US, Bloomingdale’s approach is interesting in that they’ve gone a step further to reach potential customers while they’re in their home country. To attract shoppers from China, Bloomingdale’s worked with Chinese-language luxury digital newsletter Bomoda to promote the retailers’ offerings to travel-prone Chinese consumers (see below); it also established a microsite targeted at the Chinese shopper.

Source: Bomoda

Few retailers promote their cross-border eCommerce offerings to continue the relationship. Opportunities exist for retailers to continue relationships with customers once they land back home, as well. Few retailers, however, have done a good job of harnessing the power of the online channel to this end. Retailers that are actively catering to high-spending tourists in stores should be promoting their international shipping options to these customers and encouraging them to continue their relationships with the brand upon their return home. Though this option is clearly pricier for shoppers than buying from the retailer on-site in the US, many consumers that have learned to love certain brands have demonstrated a willingness to buy cross-border. 

We dive into the topic of international shipping in a recent report (my colleague Kelland Willis blogs about it here) – this tactic is one that retailers should not overlook at they think about how to tap into the growing number of travelers who come to the US and establish or expand relationships with brands.