The impact of COVID-19 on the evolution of online retail: The pandemic as a window of opportunity

Levente Szásza,, Csaba Bálint, Ottó Csíki, Bálint Zsolt Nagy, Béla-Gergely Rácz, Dénes Csala, Lloyd C Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pandemic-related shocks have induced an unexpected volatility into the evolution of online sales, making it difficult for retailers to cope with frequently occurring, drastic changes in demand. Relying on a socio-technical approach, the purpose of this paper is to (a) offer a deeper insight into the driving forces of online sales during the pandemic, and (b) investigate whether pandemic-related shocks accelerate the long-term growth of online retail. Novel, high-frequency data on GPS-based population mobility and government stringency is used to demonstrate how time spent in residential areas and governmental restrictions drive the monthly evolution of online sales in 23 countries. We deconstruct these effects into three main phases: lure-in, lock-in, and phase-out. Lastly, using time series analysis, we show that the pandemic has induced a level shift into the long-term growth trend of the online retail sector in the majority of countries investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103089
JournalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Government stringency
  • Mobility
  • Multi-level perspective
  • Online retail
  • e-commerce


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