What Marketers Can Learn From Consumers’ Response To The Pandemic

Alon Ghelber is CMO at Revuze; an AI StartUp analyzing customer reviews & delivering product insights to optimize decision-making.

While most businesses suffer hardships from time to time, the pandemic has only increased the frightening dominance of giants like Alibaba and Amazon. Many people are relying on online services right now, and e-commerce businesses have seen strong competition in both the East and the West markets.

When analyzing e-commerce opinions around the world, my team at Revuze witnessed some differences in how retail and e-commerce have adjusted across Europe and North America vs. Asia-Pacific.

In this article, I will cover the similarities and differences of e-commerce strategies for the East and the West amid the pandemic, and what marketers can take away.

The Impact Of Covid-19 On Businesses Around The World

The pandemic is shaking up businesses and consumer behavior (subscription required) on a massive scale. Around 20% of small and medium-sized companies may have to close their businesses for good, according to Marion Jansen, chief economist of the United Nation’s International Trade Centre.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is pushing industries to e-commerce. Businesses that can embrace digital transformation on time can actually benefit from the pandemic. For example, traditional businesses and plenty of stores are moving online (subscription required), and more can learn from the retail giants and start to use digital platforms to serve their customers.

The impact of the post-pandemic economy on businesses worldwide is inevitable. In both the East and the West, the pandemic has taken a toll on the fashion industry, with an expected 27% to 30% (subscription required) decrease in global revenue in 2020. But there are also some differences between e-commerce in the East and the West.

E-Commerce In The East

Overall, Asia has seen significant growth in e-commerce since the pandemic

Governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict internet freedom

The news: Global internet freedom has declined for the 10th year in a row as governments use the coronavirus pandemic as cover to restrict people’s rights, according to a report by think tank Freedom House. Its researchers assessed 65 countries, accounting for 87% of internet users worldwide. The report covers the period from June 2019 to May 2020, but some key changes took place when the pandemic struck.  

The pandemic effect: In at least 20 countries, the pandemic was cited as a reason to introduce sweeping new restrictions on speech and arrest online critics. In 28, governments blocked websites or forced outlets, users, or platforms to censor information in order to suppress critical reporting, unfavorable health statistics or other content related to the coronavirus. In at least 45 of the countries studied, people were arrested as a result of their online posts about covid-19.

Many countries are also conducting increasingly sweeping surveillance of their populations, with contact tracing or quarantine compliance apps particularly ripe for abuse in places like Bahrain, India, and Russia. In China, the authorities used high- and low-tech tools to not just manage the outbreak of the coronavirus, but also to stop people from sharing information and challenge the official narrative. 

Other non-pandemic related findings include:

  • The US’s standing as a global leader for internet freedom is increasingly under threat. Internet freedom declined in the US for the fourth consecutive year, the report concluded. Federal and local law enforcement agencies have adopted new surveillance tools in response to historic protests against racial injustice, and several people faced criminal charges for online activity related to the demonstrations. The report directly criticized President Donald Trump for issuing draconian executive orders on social media regulation, and for helping to create and spread dangerous disinformation. 
  • The “splinternet” is well and truly

Manhattan Emptied Out During the Pandemic. But Big Tech Is Moving In.

Facebook has just leased enough new office space in Manhattan to nearly triple its current local work force, including at one of the city’s most iconic buildings, the 107-year-old former main post office complex near Pennsylvania Station.

Apple, which set up its first office in New York a decade ago, is expanding to another building in Manhattan. And Google and Amazon are stitching together corporate campuses in the city more quickly than anywhere else in the world. Amazon paid roughly $1 billion in March for the iconic Lord & Taylor building on Fifth Avenue.

Despite a pandemic that has ravaged New York, hollowed out many of its office buildings and raised fundamental questions about its future, the four companies collectively known as Big Tech are all significantly expanding their footprint in the city, giving it a badly needed vote of confidence.

With fears that the virus could spike again in the colder months, many companies are grappling with how, when and even if office workers will come back to buildings in Manhattan. And the tech giants have not brought their workers back yet, either.

Even so, the giants have not only moved forward with previous growth plans, but have also increased their pace of hiring and office acquisition during the pandemic.

The industry’s embrace of New York City comes despite the tumultuous reception that Amazon received last year when it proposed building a sprawling headquarters in Queens. Amazon abandoned the plans in the face of political and community opposition, but now has acquired more than 2 million square feet of office space for corporate workers, as well as warehouses from Staten Island to Queens to the Bronx.

After Amazon bought the Lord & Taylor building, it announced in August that 2,000 employees would eventually work there, increasing by half its

Governments are using the pandemic to crack down on digital rights, report finds

The Freedom on the Net 2020 report, an assessment of 65 countries released Wednesday, found that the pandemic has accelerated a decline in free speech and privacy on the internet for the tenth consecutive year, and accused some governments of using the virus as a pretext to crack down on critical speech.

“The pandemic is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the internet is becoming less and less free,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, which is funded by the US government. “Without adequate safeguards for privacy and the rule of law, these technologies can be easily repurposed for political repression.”

Amid the pandemic, internet connectivity has become a lifeline to essential information and services — from education platforms, to health care portals, employment opportunities and social interactions. But state and nonstate actors are also exploiting the crisis to erode freedoms online.
Nowhere has that approach been more apparent than in China, according to Freedom House, which rated the country worst for internet freedom for a sixth year in a row.
Since the coronavirus outbreak emerged in Wuhan last December, China has deployed every tool in its internet control arsenal — from digital surveillance, to automated censorship, and systematic arrests — to stem the spread, not only of Covid-19, but of unofficial information and criticism of the government, researchers found.

These practices are not unique to China, the report details.

Censoring the coronavirus outbreak

Intent on downplaying unfavorable Covid-19 coverage, authorities censored independent reporting in at least 28 countries and arrested online critics in 45 countries, per the report.

Following China’s lead, governments from Bangladesh to Belarus blocked reporting and websites that contradicted official sources, revoking credentials and detaining journalists who challenged their statistics. In Venezuela, for example, the government barred a website with

Grant will help University of Iowa museums and libraries spread art and programming even in pandemic

A collaboration between four University of Iowa-based institutions will soon help bring their programming to wider audiences who can’t access them during the pandemic.

The Stanley Museum of Art, the Office of the State archaeologist, the Pentacrest Museums and University Libraries are partnering on the project, which secured a $200,327 grant to expand their senior programming in Southeast Iowa.

The money will be used to digitize collections from the four institutions and to create virtual events that senior living facilities can do with their residents. They also will record events, such as talks with scholars or art projects. The recordings will be available to access anytime online.

“We have about 4 million objects in our collection,” said Elizabeth Reetz, director of strategic initiatives at the Office of the State archaeologist. “We’ll be taking high-quality images of a lot of our objects and writing interpretation and question guides that can go with them … We have a lot of photographs digitized but haven’t had the time and money to really ramp up digitizing objects before now … The Pentacrest and UI Libraries are getting special cameras to do 3D tours of their galleries.”

She’s already been doing digital outreach during the pandemic, holding online lectures and discussions with archaeologists. This will be a chance to expand that effort.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve all been dabbling in this. It’s been a really short time to learn new ways of engagement and outreach,” she said. “Before, my office in particular spent a lot of time traveling to give in-person and classroom classes, and that all stopped.”

The grant is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which set aside money for museums and libraries responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The grant also will help pay salaries for project staff