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As the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, it became increasingly clear that it would leave a lasting impact on the global economy, hitting some countries more severely than others and creating greater disturbances in certain sectors as compared to others.
One global trend became apparent almost immediately: an increasing reliance among customers on ecommerce platforms to meet their basic needs as they practice social distancing and reduce their visits to physical retail stores. The trend picked up in Pakistan and begged a single line of inquiry: would COVID-19 serve as an unexpected catalyst, propelling forward an ecommerce revolution in the cash-reliant economy? In other words, will COVID-19 change the way Pakistanis shop?
While it is still too early to ascertain whether the pandemic will create a lasting change in consumer behaviour in the country, ecommerce platforms witnessed an increase in traffic in the first few weeks following the outbreak of the virus in Pakistan. Daraz, the leading ecommerce platform in the country, witnessed an unprecedented 20% increase in traffic in March and observed the gravitation of customer demand towards essential products.
According to Pakistan’s first Ecommerce Index, curated using Daraz’ internal data, the demand for FMCG products has jumped over the past few weeks. The Index, which was published to establish benchmarks for online consumer behaviour and help stakeholders in the industry better understand the online shopper, states that the contribution of FMCG products to the overall sales on the platform doubled in March and is expected to increase to 70%.
The report also highlights that the demand for hand washes and hand sanitizers has increased by 18x while DFresh – the fruits and vegetables channel on Daraz – has witnessed an order uplift of 9x. The data insists that a large segment of Pakistani shoppers have identified ecommerce platforms as a solution during these uncertain times and have transitioned towards online shopping even to purchase groceries; a category over which traditional retail has held a stronger grip.
The Index also notes an encouraging shift towards digital payment methods. Digital payments contributed to 32% of total consumer spend in the last year on Daraz. The use of e-wallets and mobile accounts increased by 8.2x, while the use of bank cards and mobile banking rose by 1.9x, each. Furthermore, the Index states that a 36% increase in internet penetration in 2019 fueled Daraz’s growth – the platform’s users increased by 2x while orders jumped by 3x, year-on-year.
The full economic impact of COVID19 will reveal itself with time. Whether COVID19 will serve as a catalyst for a revolution remains to be decided. However, it is safe to say that ecommerce platforms have provided a solution to nations, including Pakistan, as the quarantine continues.