What happened

After selling off sharply earlier in the week -- as investors rotated into more economically-sensitive stocks following positive news on the coronavirus vaccine front -- e-commerce stocks rebounded on Wednesday. 

By the close of trading, shares of PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL), MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI), and Wix.com (NASDAQ:WIX) were up 4.9%, 6.4%, and 10.5%, respectively.

So what 

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their experimental coronavirus vaccine, BNT162b2, could be more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. That led many investors to take profits in shares of e-commerce companies, many of which performed well during the coronavirus pandemic, and buy cyclical stocks that could potentially benefit from a vaccine.

A person is drawing a line that rises, then falls sharply, then rises again.

E-commerce stocks rallied on Wednesday. Image source: Getty Images.

Yet on Wednesday, investors apparently began to remember that the growth of the online retail industry wouldn't come to a halt after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. Many bargain hunters decided to use the recent sell-off to pick up shares of the best e-commerce companies at a discount, driving their price back up in the process.

Now what 

If Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine proves safe and effective, it could spark a powerful economic recovery. But even if traditional retailers see increased store traffic after the coronavirus crisis eventually subsides, the long-term growth prospects of the e-commerce industry remain stellar.

Millions of people made online purchases for the first time during the pandemic. And after enjoying the convenience and savings that e-commerce sites often provide, many of them will continue to shop online. This trend bodes well for companies like PayPal, MercadoLibre, and Wix.com, all of which stand to benefit from the growth of e-commerce.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.