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D2C cross-border e-commerce growth led by Millennial spend

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: Pexels by Andrea Piacquadio

A rise in international direct-to-consumer (D2C) purchases in the last six months have been led by Millennials, as the Covid-19 pandemic prompts more than half of 25-34-year-olds to buy direct from international online brands.

New data from cross-border e-commerce company eShopWorld (ESW) reveals that reduced access to physical stores has increased cross-border e-commerce, with 46 percent of global shoppers buying direct from international brands online, rising to 52 percent among 25-34-year-olds.

Fashion remains the most popular cross-border online shopping category internationally, with luxury purchases reporting the biggest growth over the past six months with an increase of six percent compared to the end of 2020, followed by skincare and fragrance, an increase of four percent respectively. Outside of apparel, Millennial and Gen Z demographics, bought three times as many cross-border purchases compared to Baby Boomers.

ESW’s ‘Global Voices: Pre-Peak Pulse 2021’ survey of almost 15,000 consumers across 14 countries including the UK, US, Canada, Australia and China, showed a further 52 percent were motivated to buy online during the pandemic, rising to 58 percent on average for 25-44-year-olds, as shuttered stores or reduced access to physical shops prompted them to digitally purchase items online they would normally have validated and bought in-store. This was most keenly felt in South Africa and India (both 63 percent), followed by the UAE (56 percent), China (53 percent) and the US (52 percent).

Consumers to continue buying online post-pandemic

Traditionally ‘high contact’ items that would have previously been tried on or testing in-store proved the most popular type of cross-border purchase over the past six months. A quarter (25 percent) of global shoppers bought clothing online outside of their domestic market. Footwear (19 percent), luxury goods (18 percent) and health, beauty and skincare (17 percent respectively) also topped the list of the most popular international e-commerce purchases.

As Covid-19 restrictions eased, 57 percent of the global shoppers surveyed said that the pandemic had opened their eyes to the convenience and choice on offer online, increasing to 63 percent among Millennials. While 71 percent said that post-pandemic they would continue to purchase via a mix of digital and physical channels, highlighting the importance of omnichannel capabilities in retailers’ international commerce strategies.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, president and chief executive of Americas at ESW, said in a statement: “Brands that understand the evolution of traditional retailing see the importance of blending their direct international e-commerce trading with their existing omnichannel structure. Stores of the future will be experiential meccas, where brands will espouse and reinforce the brand personas and experiences they are building on social media. But the transactional engine for future growth has undoubtedly accelerated into digital channels, and it seems unlikely that trend will ever reverse.”

Martim Avillez Oliveira, chief commercial officer of EMEA and APAC at ESW, added: “To succeed retailers must double down on their efforts to create a holistic, deep level of understanding of international markets – across all of their sales channels and customer touchpoints – so that they can offer localised, customer-centric and cost-competitive shopping experiences. Only then can they truly open up the cross-border commerce opportunity, by maintaining both the loyalty of existing customers while attracting new ones.”