Millennials have driven the rise in international direct-to-consumer e-commerce purchases in the last six months, with reduced access to stores during the pandemic, prompting more than half (52 percent) of 25 to 34-year-olds to buy online directly from international brands, the latest data from eShopWorld [ESW] reveals.

ESW’s Global Voices: Pre-Peak Pulse 2021 survey of almost 15,000 consumers across 14 countries showed that 52 percent of shoppers overall 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. This was most keenly felt in South Africa and India (both 63 percent), followed by the UAE (56 percent), China (53 percent) and the U.S. (52 percent).

Reduced access to 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. Consumers in India and China (both 61 percent), Mexico (59 percent) and Russia (50 percent) 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 – either by trying on or testing them – proved the most popular type of cross-border purchases over the past six months. A quarter (25 percent) of global shoppers bought clothing online outside their domestic market over the period, while footwear (19 percent), luxury goods (18 percent), skin care (17 percent), health and beauty (17 percent), fragrance (16 percent) and cosmetics (16 percent) 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 (those ages 57 to 75).

The significant uptick in cross-border commerce throughout 2020 has continued 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 6 percent compared to the end of 2020, followed by skin care and fragrance (both up 4  percent over the period).

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, President and CEO, Americas, ESW, commented, “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.”

Brands partnering with ESW can enter new international markets in as little as six weeks, up to six times faster than if they attempted to do so on their own – all while engaging directly with customers and retaining ownership of all the data collected during the shopping process.