OECD: Covid’s impact on e-Commerce

A new report published last month by the OECD, entitled e-Commerce in the time of COVID-19, explores how the pandemic has caused an expansion of e-Commerce towards “new firms, customers and types of products, likely involving a long-term shift of e-Commerce transactions from luxury goods and services to everyday necessities”. Below we pick out some of the highlights that relate to medicines.

In the opening summary, the OECD says that, “while e-Commerce in the past for many consumer groups was centred on high tech goods, toys or books, it now increasingly involves goods for which availability is critical to a large share of the population, including groceries, medicine and other necessities.” There were two examples given by the OECD from Brazil and Germany showing how e-Commerce has disrupted the medicines market.

In Brazil, “around 54% of Internet users had bought food or food products over the Internet in 2020, substantially up from only 22% in 2018. Significant increases were also observed for cosmetics, toiletries and medicines. As convenience has always been one of the key drivers of e-Commerce participation, it is likely that many of the new users will keep ordering at least some goods online in the future.”

As for Germany, “online sales grew significantly for medicines and groceries, historically laggard sectors in terms of e-Commerce, while overall online sales contracted by around 18% in March 2020 in comparison to the previous year.” The OECD report also highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on e-Commerce’s share of total retail sales in the UK, USA and EU.

Writing in last Friday’s CHC.Newsflash, Nicholas Hall said: “Let’s take the best case point-of-view, that the incidence of Covid-19 will shrink dramatically during the middle of 2021, with a significantly lower death rate. How do we get back to normal? Will personal and professional life pick up where it left off? I doubt that very much. It seems to me that, at the very least, working from home is here to stay, which could mean the revival of suburban shopping, with lower footfall in city centres and out-of-town shopping malls. One impact on consumer health could be a marked revival in community pharmacy and online purchases growing from 9% to 19% of total CHC sales globally in the next 10 years, and from 11% to 27% in Asia. Another fascinating statistic courtesy of Eurostat is that, uniquely, the over-55 cohort is the largest purchasing group for medicines online, which runs counter to the theory that digital equals youth.

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