April 21, 2021


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Higher purchases, lower spending, how COVID-19 has changed online shopping: Report

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a laptop computer sitting on top of a table: Higher purchases, lower spending, how COVID-19 has changed online shopping: Report

Higher purchases, lower spending, how COVID-19 has changed online shopping: Report

A recent joint study conducted by The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Netcomm Suisse indicated that there has been a sharp increase in the frequency and volume of online shopping, but the average spending on e-commerce has sharply declined.

In the survey titled, “COVID-19 and E-commerce – Findings from a survey of online consumers in 9 countries”,  involved findings from 3,700 consumers. The nine countries included  – China, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Italy, South Africa, Russian Federation, Germany, Switzerland.

Mukhisa Kituyi Secretary-General of UNCTAD has said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. Changes we make now will have lasting effects when the world economy starts to pick up again. This survey offers valuable insights that can inform our digital strategies and policies, as we turn the page from pandemic response to recovery.”

Higher purchases: 

According to the survey, since the COVID-19 outbreak, 49 percent of the respondents said they have started shopping online. It also showed that 58 percent of the respondents said they use the internet more for entertainment sites while 56 percent use for health-related issues.

It was seen that women and people with higher education increased online purchases. People aged 25 to 44 reported a stronger increase when compared to those who were younger.

The purchases made online purchases saw an increase of 6 to 10 percent. The biggest gains were seen in information and communication technology/electronics (10 percent), pharmaceuticals/Health (9 percent), Tools, gardening & do-it-yourself (9 percent), Education and online courses (8 percent), Home furniture & household products (7 percent), Cosmetics & Personal care (6 percent).

Lower consumer spending:

With online spending witnessing a rapid surge, it has also been observed that there has been a drastic fall in consumer spending.

According to the survey, the average monthly online expenditure per person has dropped significantly. The biggest online spending has seen in travel and tourism which has declined by a staggering 75 percent.

The survey also showed that online shopping during the pandemic differed between countries. The strongest rise was noted in China and Turkey while the weakest trend was seen in Switzerland and Germany, where people were already engaging in e-commerce.

Other findings:

The survey showed how communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger grew stronger during the pandemic.

In terms of communication platforms, participants in Germany, Italy, Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey mostly increased the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

While the survey did not highlight whether the reduced spending levels were temporary, it made clear that the acceleration of e-commerce and online technology adoption will increase. Consumers from emerging economies more often anticipate that they will shop more online in the post-COVID-19 future.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.

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