Quantifying the global e-commerce slowdown

The COVID-19 pandemic it was many things. A global contagion. A health disaster. A harbinger of new geopolitical tensions and a long-standing commentary on how far we’re willing to go to protect—or not protect—our fellow man. It was also a business earthquake that shook most industries around the world.

But as quickly as COVID came onto the scene, disrupting supply lines and business models, it also faded. After most of the world learned to live with – or simply decided to endure – the health impact of the pandemic, many industries reverted to their former form. Airlines went from trash to first class; in contrast, tech companies have gone from beloved to overlooked.

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Some tech concerns have generated headwinds during COVID as the recently reformed business climate has helped them grow for a while. You can cast a wide net here: Robinhood is exploding in part thanks to consumers staying home with more money than usual, Instacart is seeing explosive demand for its grocery delivery service. Some tech companies have gone the other way, as was the case with Airbnb’s business cratering in the early months of COVID going places went from ambitious to crazy overnight.

Since the return to what passes for normalcy, the businesses initially affected by COVID have charted different courses. Robinhood lost some of its luster as its user base, according to the usual narrative, moved back out. Instacart has seen slow growth, but has been able to hold on to its pandemic-era gains.

Airbnb, an early example of the layoffs that COVID can wreak on once-healthy companies, has rebounded and retained much of its value since going public, a rare feat for the IPO cohort.

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