Assessment of Current Buyer Behavior
In 2020, about 82 percent of Barbadians had access to the internet. The social distancing measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic spawned an increase in e-commerce platforms among local businesses. Local banks, the BIDC, and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry provide support for companies who would like to use e-commerce as a sales platform. Online purchases from U.S. websites continue to increase as the influence of the U.S. media and the prevalence of social media has made it easier to see and obtain products and services online. Buying online has become the preferred method to acquire a range of products through preferred e-commerce plaforms.
Local eCommerce Sales Rules & Regulations
Local laws that govern e-commerce are the Computer Misuse Act, the Electronic Transactions Act CAP 308B and associated regulations. There are also efforts to draft a Cyber Crime Bill. The 2019 Data Protection Act borrows from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and will affect all companies when fully implemented, notably those in the service sector such as tourism and financial services. The Act establishes a Data Protection Authority, requires the appointment of a company data privacy officer, and introduces fines for non-compliance, data losses, and breaches. The private sector and the public have raised regarding personal data and its use. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology can provide more information about the Act, and a copy of the Act can be accessed on the Barbados Parliament website: https://www.barbadosparliament.com/.
Barbados also amended its tax laws to require collection of VAT on online purchases of goods and services to be consumed in Barbados. The VAT is to be collected at the point of sale. Local shipping agencies offer package clearing services for Internet purchases that are then shipped to Barbados for a fee. Items purchased usually include clothing, beauty supplies, electronic equipment, and automobile parts. There are also local companies that are wholly web-based and conduct business only via websites or social media.
While the use of e-commerce platforms has increased, the majority of local businesses still require off-line payments for transactions that may have been initiated over the phone or via email. This is primarily evident in the real estate sector. There has been an increase in internet-based companies that advertise and sell goods and services primarily through social media. While payment is usually cash on delivery, some companiesutiliized online payment platforms due primarily to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are creating websites or social media presence to showcase and market their goods and services. The government has also started to offer e-payment options for some of its services. The Ministry of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship regulates this issue. More information can be obtained from https://www.commerce.gov.bb/.
Local eCommerce Business Service Provider Ecosystem
Currently, Barbados does not collect statistical data on cross-border e-commerce, but evidence suggests the top country for online overseas purchases is the United States. Some challenges exist in the areas of electronic payment systems and order fulfilment. Most SMEs experience great challenges when seeking to have an internet merchant account approved by local banks. The cost of shipping from Barbados is also extremely high. Within the airline and hotel industries, websites are much more dynamic and individuals can book various services online. Recently, a few e-commerce platforms were launched to enable online sales of Barbadian and Caribbean goods and services.