It's hard to believe, but the first COVID-19 cases were in late 2019, meaning the pandemic entered its third year a couple of months ago. With new variants cropping up, including omicron, it appears COVID-19 will be with us for some time.

And the virus appears to have accelerated certain business changes, notably online shopping. Fortunately, there is an astute long-term investment you can make that should do well even when COVID-19 subsides.

A man and a woman sitting on the floor looking at a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Dominant online presence

Amazon (AMZN -0.34%), which started as an online bookseller in the mid-1990s, now sells just about everything online. Relentlessly focusing on customers, it offers fast delivery and low prices -- a powerful combination.

You need look no further than the company's continued sales growth to see how much Amazon dominates online sales. For the first nine months of 2021, North American sales rose by nearly 23% to $197.5 billion while international sales grew by more than 35% to $90.5 billion.

Overall, in the U.S., e-commerce sales were 13% of total retail sales in the third quarter. While this is down from 13.8% in the year-ago period, that figure was boosted by widespread shutdowns and people stuck at home. Before the pandemic, e-commerce sales were growing as a share of retail sales, standing at 11% at the end of 2019. Undoubtedly, that number will continue increasing over time due to online shopping's convenience and low prices, which will benefit Amazon.

Cloud computing

When people think about Amazon, its retail operations come to mind, including Amazon Prime. But you shouldn't forget about its Amazon Web Services (AWS) division, the leading cloud-computing business in the space.

The segment continues to rack up sales and profit gains. This year's top line grew by more than 36% to $44.4 billion, and the operating income increased by nearly 33%.

With companies' ever-increasing focus on data, AWS is in a great position to keep this fast growth going.

Recently, management gave lackluster fourth-quarter guidance. It expects 4% to 12% sales growth. The company also expects operating income to range from $0 to $3 billion versus $6.9 billion in the year-ago period. That's because Amazon is confronting some near-term concerns, such as higher costs related to labor shortages and supply chain issues. Fortunately, the business' long-term prospects remain bright since it has dominant market positions in online retail and cloud computing, two growth areas.

While the use of data isn't a new phenomenon, the pandemic accelerated online shopping trends. As cases ebb and flow and new variants crop up, creating uncertainty for many companies, Amazon's business remains poised to grow as consumers continue to realize the benefits of online shopping.

AMZN Chart

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Meanwhile, Amazon's stock price performance has been underwhelming this year. Its 5.8% gain badly lags the S&P 500's 25.5%. However -- given that Amazon's promising long-term prospects remain intact, and the pandemic's likely positive impact on online shopping over the near term -- like other holiday bargains, this sale likely won't last very long.