The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the development of e-commerce in key industries in Colombia. This occurred primarily in the remote environment, both because proximity e-commerce is still in a nascent phase of development and because the conditions during the crisis militated against consumers visiting physical locations beyond their homes.
The closure of foodservice outlets and concerns about viral transmission through social contact provided a significant boost to the development of online ordering in the foodservice industry during the COVID-19 crisis. Initially, restaurants implemented the service directly on their websites, which in many cases required access to a PC to make an order.
Marketplaces and new apps to make online purchases emerged in 2020 aimed at helping small companies and entrepreneurs in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Totto, one of the leading companies in apparel, bags and other accessories, launched a marketplace on its own website where entrepreneurs could sell their products.
In 2021, e-commerce (goods and services) is expected to register accelerated value growth as the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions boosts sales in areas such as travel and leisure. However, categories that have thrived online during the pandemic, such as retailing and foodservice, are set to see growth slow or even decline during the year as the reopening of non-essential physical stores, the return of dine-in services and the waning of consumer fears about viral transmission through social contact lead to a return to brick-and-mortar outlets.
Colombia is working to promote the development of the digital economy, with programmes such as Vive Digital leading to an increase in connectivity in the regions and a low cost of broadband. Along with the increasing penetration of smartphones, this is motivating the development of e-commerce apps that focus on a wide variety of product categories, ranging across groceries, beauty and personal care, pet care and fashion, amongst others.
Digital banking has seen rapid growth in Colombia, with financial institutions increasingly offering mobile apps, user-friendly websites and digital wallets. There are also 100% digital banks, like Nequi and Daviplata, which offer customers the opportunity to make payments to merchants using methods such as QR codes, allowing them to pay for services such as Netflix, pay public service bills, pay for car insurance, and pay for the use of Muvo bikes.
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