New data from ESW, formerly eShopWorld, revealed Millennials have been driving international, direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales over the past six months, which follows an overall shift to higher online purchases during the pandemic.
The authors of the report said with “reduced access to stores during the pandemic,” more than half, or 52 percent, of 25- to 34-year-olds shopped online, directly from international brands. Data from ESW’s Global Voices: Pre-Peak Pulse 2021 survey was culled from nearly 15,000 consumers across 14 countries. The poll found that 52 percent were “motivated to buy online during the pandemic.”
“That average rose to 58 percent among 25- to 44-year-olds, as shuttered stores and reduced access to physical shops prompted consumers to purchase items online that they normally would have validated and bought in-store,” ESW said. “This was most keenly felt in South Africa and India, both at 63 percent; followed by the UAE, 56 percent; China, 53 percent, and the U.S., 52 percent.”
ESW said reduced access to physical stores “also boosted cross-border e-commerce, with almost half, 46 percent, of global shoppers surveyed saying it prompted them to buy directly from an international brand online, rising to 52 percent among those ages 25 to 34.” Top categories shopped for include footwear, apparel, luxury goods, skin care, fragrances, healthy and beauty products, and cosmetics.
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, president and chief executive officer of the Americas at ESW, said 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.”
When asked if these online shopping trends will continue, Bousquet-Chavanne told WWD that the company expects “both online shopping and cross-border commerce to continue to see strong momentum due to the ongoing pandemic, shoppers’ changing habits and a generational shift.”
“COVID-19 continues to affect brick-and-mortar retail in regions across the world through temporary store closures, staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions,” the CEO explained. “In addition, hundreds of millions of shoppers globally have now become accustomed to shopping online for every retail category. They have tested the convenience of e-commerce, even for traditionally ‘high-touch’ categories like beauty, fashion and luxury, and cross-border commerce now allows them to easily access brands and products from companies across the globe.”
Regarding why Millennials and Gen Z engage in more cross-border commerce, the CEO said these demographic cohorts “are digital natives who grew up using technology to improve every aspect of their lives, including shopping. Also, social media has given them an easy way to connect and share information with a global community, so they’re continually exposed to new trends from around the world.”
“It’s natural and common for these younger shoppers to be early adopters — they quickly learn about brands and products that are trending in another part of the world and look for ways to purchase those items locally through a trusted channel,” Bousquet-Chavanne told WWD. “Cross-border commerce provides shoppers with access to a huge array of goods that they may not be able to find in stores at home as well as better prices on many items that they may already be able to access.”
As the momentum of international online sales continues, Bousquet-Chavanne said there are several approaches brands and merchants can take.
“Brands have a unique opportunity today to access growth internationally, but most don’t have the digital and local market expertise needed to provide a localized, customer-centric experience that’s part of a seamless omnichannel offering,” Bousquet-Chavanne said. “They need to understand each international market in order to gauge demand, reach new customers and maintain existing customers’ loyalty. To fully leverage the cross-border opportunity, brands need to partner with experts that can manage everything from taxes and tariffs, to compliance and security, to checkout, delivery, returns and customer service.”
“Once they’ve customized their offering for each market, brands need to continually use the local market data they gather to improve the shopping experience,” he added.