April 06, 2021 at 07:25PM

There’s a technique in painting called Pointillism, where small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image, and a whole emerges from thousands of small points. Similarly, the digital shift is so finely ingrained in everyday life that it might be hard to get a sense of how pervasive it has been. Task by task, we’ve turned to online channels to tackle the minutiae of doing everything from paying rent to buying groceries to paying relatives an online visit.

Add up a few billion daily shifts, a few billion online interactions here, there and everywhere, and the size and scope of it all becomes apparent, stretching across borders and currencies, with a few commonalities.

Some Democratization Behind the Shift  

PYMNTS’ own data, culled from ongoing shopping index research, has found a wide trend toward the democratization of digital access across several nations (though pockets of disparity and inequality exist), which has given consumers the tools they need to embrace digital means of transacting, working and schooling.

PYMNTS’ feedback worldwide shows that digital consumers are more likely than they were pre-pandemic to be over 40 years old, lower-income and female. In the U.K., for example, consumers that had made the digital leap from in-store to online channels have an average age of 53, and 61 percent are female. In the U.S., where nearly 9 percent of shoppers have pivoted from brick-and-mortar to wholly online shopping, a bit more than a third of consumers make less than $50,000 annually, the average age is about 49 years old, and about two-thirds of that segment are female. Similar stats are seen in Australia.

Data released this week from Mastercard underscores worldwide trends. The company has estimated that through the pandemic, there has been an incremental $900 billion spent online, globally, at retailers. Asia Pacific, North America and Europe showed the strongest gains in eCommerce. International eCommerce grew by as much as 30 percent through the pandemic, according to the data, as measured year over year, from March 2020 through February 2021 – accounting for the peak period of the pandemic.

Bricklin Dwyer, Mastercard’s chief economist, told PYMNTS that cross-border transactions have been a large part of that growth, and that “online marketplaces have been a big part” of the shift. All in all, Mastercard estimated, there’s been a six-percentage-point increase in incremental eCommerce penetration – and about 20 percent to 30 percent of retail’s global digital shift seen in 2020 will remain in place for good.

There is indeed other evidence that supports the stickiness of the shift. Recent PYMNTS research shows that more than a third of consumers will carry on with at least some digital habits, such as working from home, while a third of respondents say they will, for example, continue to order their groceries online.

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