COVID-19 Has Resulted In Rise In B2B, B2C E-com: WTO

The enforcement of social distancing, lockdowns and other measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led consumers to ramp up online shopping, social media use, internet telephony and teleconferencing, and streaming of videos and films. This has resulted in spikes in business-to-consumers (B2C) sales and business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, according to a new report by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The increase in B2C sales is particularly evident in online sales of medical supplies, household essentials and food products, WTO said in a press release.

Demand has also increased for internet and mobile data services. The network capacity and spectrum to accommodate the shift to online activities has urgently had to be adapted by both operators and governments. Demand has fallen, however, for certain services with a large online component, such as tourism services.

E-commerce for goods and services trade has been adversely impacted by the same factors that have caused disruption in supply and demand overall. Such disruptions have resulted in delivery delays or outright cancellation of orders.

Several other e-commerce-related challenges have arisen or been further amplified during this pandemic. These include price gouging (i.e. increasing prices to unreasonably high levels), product safety concerns, deceptive practices, cyber security concerns, the need for increased bandwidth, and development-related concerns, the WTO report said.

The pandemic has highlighted the glaring need to bridge the digital divide, both within and across countries, given the central role the digital economy has played during the crisis. Many traditional obstacles have been accentuated and have continued to hamper greater participation in e-commerce activities by small producers, sellers and consumers in developing countries, particularly in least-developed countries (LDCs).

The global nature of COVID-19 and its impact on e-commerce may encourage strengthened international cooperation and the further development of policies for online purchases and supply. The pandemic has made it clear that e-commerce can be an important solution for consumers and can also support small businesses and, by making economies more competitive, be an economic driver for both domestic growth and international trade, according to the report.