The rapid development of global e-commerce under the epidemic

The impact of the New Crown Pneumonia pandemic on digital transformation and how e-commerce and related digital technologies are contributing to recovery was the focus of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s E-Commerce Week 2022, held in Geneva from April 25 to 29 .The latest figures show that despite the easing of restrictions in many countries, fast-growing consumer e-commerce activity continues to grow significantly in 2021, with a surge in online sales.

The proportion of Internet users implementing online shopping increased from 53% before the outbreak (2019) to 60% after the outbreak (2020 to 2021) in 66 countries and regions for which statistics are available. However, the extent to which the epidemic leads to rapid growth in online shopping varies by country, with many developed countries already having relatively high levels of online shopping prior to the epidemic (more than 50% of Internet users), while most developing countries have lower consumer e-commerce penetration rates.

E-commerce in developing countries is accelerating. In the UAE, the percentage of Internet users shopping online more than doubles from 27% in 2019 to 63% in 2020; in Bahrain, the percentage triples to 45% in 2020; in Uzbekistan, the percentage rises from 4% in 2018 to 11% in 2020;Thailand, which had a high penetration rate of consumer e-commerce before the Covid-19 pandemic, increased by 16%, which means that by 2020 the country More than half of internet users (56%) are shopping online for the first time.

The data show that among European countries, Greece (up 18%), Ireland, Hungary and Romania (up 15 % each) had the largest increase. One reason for this disparity is that there are significant gaps in the degree of digitization across countries, as well as in their ability to move quickly to digital technologies to mitigate economic disruption. LDCs are particularly in need of support in launching e-commerce.

Official statistics from seven countries, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, Australia and Singapore, which together account for about half of the world’s GDP, show that online retail sales in these countries have surged from about $2 trillion before the pandemic (2019). Increase to $2.5 trillion in 2020 and $2.9 trillion in 2021. Across these countries, online retail sales grew strongly as people increased their online shopping, and their share of total retail sales increased significantly, from 2019 16% increased to 19% in 2020, and although offline sales began to pick up later, online retail sales growth continued into 2021. The share of online sales in total retail sales in China (about a quarter in 2021) is much higher than in the United States (about an eighth).

According to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 13 top consumer-centric e-commerce companies, including Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon,, and Pinduoduo, saw their revenue surge during the pandemic. In 2019, these companies had combined sales of $2.4 trillion. After the pandemic hit in 2020, that figure rose to $2.9 trillion, before growing by a further third in 2021, bringing total sales to $3.9 trillion (at current prices).