2021’s DTC and cross-border e-tail growth driven by luxury, fashion is top choice

2021’s DTC and cross-border e-tail growth driven by luxury, fashion is top choice

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) online purchases rose 17% year-on-year in 2021, powered by a massive 114% global increase in luxury sales, according to new survey data from global DTC e-commerce specialist ESW.

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The company also said behavioural shifts, formed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, remained entrenched throughout 2021. And clothing remained the most popular cross-border category to buy, although footwear saw big growth.

As mentioned, luxury was the standout performer while the DTC market (either cross-border or domestically) saw much smaller sales increases for multi-brand retailers (+10%) and single brand and specialist retailers (also +10%).

The Global Voices: 2022 survey of more than 14,000 consumers across 14 countries revealed Millennials

That led to sizeable increases in domestic e-commerce sales of luxury products (+28%), sporting goods (+19%), cosmetics (+19%), fragrance (+13%) and skincare (+10%) across all age brackets “as consumers continued to purchase these traditionally ‘high contact’ items — that would have previously been validated either by trying on or testing in-store — online”.

The report also said that in 2021, 37% of Millennials made more than 11 online cross-border purchases, an increase of 12%. This was followed by 30% of Gen Z, 26% of Gen X and 19% of Baby Boomers. 

Geographically, shoppers in the UAE (53%), China (50%) and India (41%) reported the highest rates of purchase frequency levels at 11 or more. In the UK 31% of respondents reported making 11 cross-border purchases or more in 2021, followed by Germany (23%) and France (22%).

By country, shoppers in Japan (51%), China (44%), the UAE (21%), South Korea (17%) and Mexico (16%) reported the highest rate of respondents spending more than GBP£1,100 (US$1,500) on cross-border purchases in 2021.

The top reasons cited for buying cross-border were paying less for products than they would domestically (26%) and having a positive past experience buying from a foreign website (26%).

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%. 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%, followed by footwear (+33%), and skincare and cosmetics (+31% each).

Looking ahead to 2022, consumer confidence remains high with 53% expecting their online buying habits to remain roughly the same over the next 12 months. In fact, 19% plan to increase their spend, although 22% may cut back. 

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