As the Coronavirus outbreak reaches newer and unprecedented extents with each passing day, it is giving rise to uneasiness amongst people over using currency like notes and coins. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that currency notes are very likely to be carriers of the coronavirus. In response, several countries around the world have urged consumers and businesses to switch to digital payments instead of using cash. Consequently, a rapid growth in e-commerce has been observed.

According to surveys conducted in the most heavily affected regions worldwide, a significant shift in online shopping behavior has been witnessed. In China, 50 percent and 31 percent respondents from Italy revealed that they’re using eCommerce platforms more frequently. In neighboring India, 55 percent increase in online shopping has been observed. Grocery shopping platforms like ‘Walmart Grocery’, ‘Instacart’ and ‘Target’ have recorded 160 percent, 218 percent and 98 percent rise in mobile application downloads over the past month alone .

These trends show a definitive movement towards reliance on ecommerce platforms engulfing countries around the world. Moreover, various organisations are developing innovative solutions to cater to user demands while practicing appropriate social distancing. Delivery services in China are using drones and robots for driverless package disbursements to customers. US retailers are also pondering similar alternatives while companies like Uber Eats have waived all delivery charges to facilitate customers shopping online.

That being said, the integration of e-commerce in Pakistan has become the need of the hour based on the significant impact it has worldwide, especially in China. Not only has the adoption of e-commerce paved the way for new opportunities, it has simultaneously provided convenience and security to the existing processes and businesses.

Considering the coronavirus outbreak we are witnessing at large right now, it is imperative that we adopt the use of e-commerce in our everyday functions while investing on new avenues too. As of now, this existing e-commerce platforms do offer this, but people mostly prefer cash on delivery and that is something we need to change. In order to fully benefit from e-commerce in Pakistan, it is essential that we go for cashless payments along with the integration/use of digital wallets and shift our primary method of payment to a digital one.

Currently, we have a variety of different mobile wallets operating in Pakistan such as Easypaisa, JazzCash, Keenu Wallet etc. Easypaisa, a rather prominent digital wallet, was the first of its kind digital payment platform in Pakistan and provides effective tools to facilitate customers in making paperless, hassle-free and safe transactions from the comfort of their homes.

In addition, Easypaisa is already linked with numerous e-commerce platforms such as Daraz, Yayvo, iShopping, HomeShopping, Metro Cash & Carry, letting its users make purchases without the requirement of being physically present in a public environment and getting them delivered to your home.

In order to truly experience the potential of technology, we need to be more open to e-commerce platforms all while incorporating the use of digital payments to compliment it. With all these services being conveniently provided at a touch on your smartphone, everyday processes have been digitized to a great extent.

With the number of virus affected patients crossing the 1000 mark this week, health experts claim their models are predicting a few thousand individuals might have been infected by now. It is crucial that digital methods of payment are adopted by consumers on a large scale to limit the spread and practice social distancing at best.

Advocacy in this regard particularly by the government and opinion leaders in the society will serve fruitful as awareness needs to be spread to maximise the adoption of e-commerce platforms and the use of digital payments. In the case of a virus with a spread as startlingly swift as this one, every little measure could save hundreds of lives.

The writer is a senior executive at a renowned digital payment platform.