Millennials drive cross-border D2C e-commerce

August 5, 2021 by
Sanne Leenders

More than half of Millennials have purchased goods directly from international brands in the past six months. Building on shopping habit that started in lockdown. According to eShopWorld’s (ESW) Global Voices: Pre-Peak Pulse 2021 Survey, 52% of shoppers were motivated to buy online during COVID-19. That average rose to 58% among 25–44-year-olds. Shuttered stores and reduced access to physical shops prompted consumers to purchase items online. Items that they normally would have validated and bought in-store.

This was most keenly felt in South Africa (63%) and India (63%). This was followed by the UAE (56%), China (53%) and the US (52%).

Lockdowns boosted cross-border e-commerce

Reduced access to stores also boosted cross-border e-commerce. Almost half (46%) of global shoppers say it prompted them to buy directly from an international brand online. Rising to 52% among those aged 25–34. Consumers in India (61%) and China (61%), Mexico (59%) and Russia (50%) were the most likely to have purchased directly from an international brand online in the first half of 2021.

As a result, traditionally ‘high contact’ items that consumers would have previously validated in-store proved the most popular type of cross-border purchases over the past six months.

Most popular international e-commerce purchases

A quarter (25%) of global shoppers bought clothing online outside their domestic market over the period. Meanwhile footwear (19%), luxury goods (18%), skincare (17%), health and beauty (17%), fragrance (16%) and cosmetics (16%) rounded out the list of the most popular international e-commerce purchases. Once again, Millennial and Gen Z shoppers led the way. Making cross-border purchases at three times the rate at of Baby Boomers.

The significant uptick in cross-border commerce throughout 2020 continues in 2021. Although year-over-year growth has been more muted. Of the top five most popular cross-border e-commerce categories, luxury grew the fastest over the past six months, rising with 6%. This is followed by skincare and fragrance, both rising with 4%.

Spending more as a coping mechanism

56% of global shoppers admitted to spending more online as a coping mechanism. Either treating themselves to ‘pick-me-ups’ to reward themselves for getting through lockdowns or to alleviate the emotional stress of the pandemic. Meanwhile, over a quarter (28%) said they had bought more online ‘gifts’ or ‘treats’ for friends and family during the pandemic.

Importance of omnichannel capabilities

57% of the global shoppers say COVID-19 had opened their eyes to the convenience and choice on offer online – increasing to 63% among Millennials. Moreover, 71% said that, post-pandemic, they would continue to purchase via a mix of digital and physical channels. This highlights the importance of omnichannel capabilities in retailers’ international commerce strategies as many countries begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

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