GENEVA

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed online shopping behaviors, according to a survey of about 3,700 consumers in nine emerging and developed economies, the UN Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD) said Thursday.

The survey, entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce,” examined how the novel coronavirus has changed the way consumers use e-commerce and digital solutions.

It covered Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, and Turkey.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world.

“The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

The survey was conducted by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, collaborating with the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br) and Inveon.

It shows that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories.

Increases in online shopping during COVID-19 differ between countries, with the most robust rise noted in China and Turkey and the weakest in Switzerland and Germany, where more people were already engaging in e-commerce.

The survey found that women and people with tertiary education increased their online purchases more than others.

People aged 25 to 44 reported a more substantial increase compared with younger ones. In the case of Brazil, the growth was highest among the most vulnerable population and women.

According to survey responses, small merchants in China were most equipped to sell their products online, and those in South Africa were least prepared.

According to the survey, the most used communication platforms are WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger, all owned by Facebook.

However, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have benefitted the most from increases in video calling applications in workplaces.

In China, the top communication platforms are WeChat, DingTalk, and Tencent Conference, the survey showed.

The survey results suggest that changes in online activities are likely to outlast the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most respondents, especially those in China and Turkey, said they would continue shopping online and focusing on essential products in the future.

They would also continue to travel more locally, suggesting a lasting impact on international tourism.

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