OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
Last June 15, 2020 would have been the 75th birthday of my friend Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. I can only imagine her witty quips regarding this pandemic if she was here with us today. We miss her brilliance, her sense of humor, her thoughtfulness and especially her passion in public service. Happy Birthday Senadora!
Since the lockdown was implemented last March 15, 2020, the e-commerce industry has experienced a dramatic boom. Consumers, quarantined in their homes for months, went to online shopping to get their daily essential needs and later on, their non-essential wants too. Many business establishments like restaurants, shops, and the like strengthened their online presence and improved their e-commerce infrastructure in order to serve their customers.
Even when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) transitioned to the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) and later back to the General Community Quarantine (GCQ), customers continue to flock online store for their groceries, medicines, food, and other needs.
According to Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report as of June 7, 2020, mobility trends for places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theaters was down 65%.
Mobility trends for places like grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops, drug stores, and pharmacies was down 32%, while mobility trends for places like public transport hubs such as subway, bus, and train stations decreased by 62%.
While Google’s data came from user’s data “who have opted-in to Location History for their Google Account, and therefore essentially limited, it does confirm the stark decrease in the movement of people during the quarantine.
This is certainly good news. The e-commerce world has provided some businesses, from the micro to the giant, a refuge from the downturn in consumption that has ravaged the economy. Although I think that when the pandemic eases, people will go back to visiting the physical stores they love so much. Filipinos are gala. Lumaki tayong may nunal sa talampakan. We cannot stay in one place for long. That is why Filipinos flock to malls, parks and other recreational places. This is what the coronavirus has denied us—our way of life.
I am not sure if the online store will replace the brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce will continue to increase but there will always be a place for the physical stores in the post-pandemic business world. This is why it is important for entrepreneurs to be creative and adaptive to the changes of the times. They need to realize that consumers have completely changed priorities in what they buy, what they stock, and what purchases they de-prioritize.
It is also important for both entrepreneurs and customers to be very cautious when conducting online business. One of the advantages of e-commerce is that it is safe from viral transmission since most of the transaction does not involve person-to-person contact. But it is not immune to danger.
Authorities have reported a sharp increase in online fraud, identity theft, and e-commerce scams that have victimized both buyers and sellers. The rule in the online & offline world is essentially the same: while people, for the most part, are good, there are still unscrupulous individuals who victimize others.
A Manila Bulletin report cited the study of TransUnion, a global information and insights company which showed that suspected online fraud originating from the Philippines doubled during the pandemic. This made the Philippines the country with the 76th highest percentage of digital suspected fraud.
The cybercrime division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also reported a 100% increase in phishing which is a method of trying to gather personal information using deceptive e-mails and websites. Cyber criminals will then use this to defraud you or steal your money. A good rule of thumb is never to disclose sensitive details about yourself or your finances to an untrusted source. When in doubt, ignore.
As we adopt physical distancing in real life to combat the coronavirus let us also adopt online distancing from scammers in order to protect our financial health.