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£490bn of in-store sales moved online globally in 2021 as cross-border takes off

Online shopping is only going to get bigger

Nearly one-fifth (18%) of global consumers shopped online for products they had only previously purchased in-store – as up to £490bn of bricks and mortar sales migrated online during the last 12 months.

According to data from ESW’s ‘Global Voices: Pre-Peak Pulse 2021’ survey of almost 15,000 consumers across 14 countries, 35% of shoppers didn’t miss in-person shopping during the pandemic, increasing to 39% of Millennial respondents, as lockdowns and restricted access to physical retail further eroded the relevance of bricks and mortar retail to the next generation of shoppers. 

Accordingly, 52% of global shoppers aged 25-34-years-old said they had bought direct from an online international brand during lockdown.  More than a third (33%) of Millennial consumers made more than eleven purchases online and from outside their own country in the last six months, as purchasing directly from brands cross-border increasingly becomes the generational norm for this demographic.

Underscoring the disruptive nature of the pandemic on customer behaviour, 11% of respondents reported purchasing from new companies and retailers – meaning that in the past 12 months, approximately £280bn worth of spending switched brands – highlighting the opportunity for businesses to dislodge incumbents and reach new customers and demographics. 

The research also highlights the ongoing erosion of traditional retail channels with nearly half (47%) of online shoppers purchasing products through a social media channel, with Gen Z (55%) and Millennials leading the way.  Over two thirds of the shoppers in Mexico (68%), India (66%), and UAE (67%) reported shopping on social media.

DTC, ecommerce and cross-border are the preferred channels to fuel international expansion and build engagement and sustained loyalty with shoppers around the world, comments Martim Avillez Oliveira, Chief Commercial Officer, EMEA and APAC at ESW.

“The transactional engine for future growth in the retail sector has undoubtedly accelerated into digital channels, and our research confirms it is unlikely this will reverse,” he says.  “As consumers become ever more confident and conversant with shopping online, spurred on through necessity during the pandemic, retailers must step up to meet their expectations by providing the frictionless and engaging purchasing experiences they demand.”

He adds: “While this still-emerging consumer reality, with its increasingly global, multichannel, DTC focus can be very complex, brands need to be able to assess the landscape and identify the necessary resources, partners and ecosystem needed to capitalise on this next phase in retail’s evolution.”

Avillez Oliveira concludes: “Because with the risk, comes the rewards as we know the highest value shoppers want to engage with and buy directly from brands wherever they are in the world.”

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