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Millennials driving increase in DTC and cross-border online purchases

Camilla Rydzek
02 February 2022

Growth in direct-to-consumer (DTC) and cross-border online purchases are being driven by the Millennial consumer, according to new data from global DTC ecommerce expert ESW.

Direct-to-consumer online purchases increased by 17% year-on-year, powered by a 114% global increase in luxury sales, ESW said. It also showed that year-on-year 25 to 40-year-olds reported increased DTC purchasing across all eleven purchasing categories.

Traditionally high contact items that would have been tried-on in store pre-pandemic, such as luxury and sporting goods, cosmetics, fragrance and skin care saw the highest rise in domestic e-commerce sales across all age brackets.

ESW also revealed that in 2021 over a third (37%) of Millennials made more than 11 online cross-border purchases, an increase of 12% year-on-year. For Generation Z this showed an increase of 30%. The top reasons respondents cited for buying cross-border include paying less for products and having a positive past experience buying from a foreign website.

While more than a quarter (26%) of global shoppers bought clothing online outside of their domestic market, making it the most popular shopped cross-border purchase in 2021 overall, the category only rose 4% year-on-year. Of the top five most popular cross-border e-commerce categories luxury and fragrance grew the fastest over the past 12 months, both up 50% compared to the end of 2020, followed by footwear (33%), and skincare and cosmetics (31% respectively).

Looking ahead to 2022, consumer confidence will remain buoyant, says ESW, with more than half of respondents (53%) expecting their online buying habits to remain roughly the same over the next 12 months. Nearly a fifth (19%) plan to increase their spend, while slightly more respondents (22%) may decrease their spend. By generation, 23% of Millennials and 20% of Gen Z expect to increase shopping, while 26% of Gen Z and 23% of Boomers expect to decrease their online spending.

ESW’s ‘Global Voices: 2022’ survey collected responses from more than 14,000 consumers across fourteen countries, including the UK, France and Germany.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, President and CEO, Americas at ESW, commented: “2021 was the year of the Millennial, as this demographic cemented their position as the power shopping cohort driving demand for DTC and cross-border commerce. The data clearly demonstrate that previous positive DTC and cross-border purchasing experiences are working to create a virtuous cycle of growth in consumer confidence and those outlier brands and retailers, who have worked hard in the past two years to fine-tune their selling strategies in these areas, are reaping very significant rewards.”

Martim Avillez Oliveira, Chief Commercial Officer, EMEA at ESW, added: “The much-vaunted DTC retail revolution is now a reality brands cannot afford to ignore. As consumer confidence continues to grow and global shoppers settle further into their new shopping routines retailers must focus on developing a deep understanding of what drives DTC demand – across all of sales channels and customer touchpoints – so they can capitalise on the appetite consumers have to connect with their favourite brands online and maintain both the loyalty of existing customers while attracting new ones.”


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