June 27, 2013, 12:23 PM

A $1.2 trillion global payday for e-commerce

Global online retail and travel spending will pass that mark this year, says eMarketer.

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Online retailers and travel companies will sell consumers $1.22 trillion in goods and services this year, a 17.1% increase over 2012, eMarketer says in a report released today. Driving the growth this year—and likely for years to come—is the Asia-Pacific region, and China in particular.

“The Chinese market is a standout market,” says eMarketer vice president Clark Fredricksen. “For its size it’s growing at an astonishing rate. We expect e-commerce in China to grow over 50% this year, and it’s already the second-biggest market in the world.”

The United States, the world’s largest e-commerce market, will generate $395.28 billion in business-to-consumer e-commerce sales in 2013, a 12.4% increase over $351.80 billion last year, eMarketer says. Retail will account for 66% of 2013 e-commerce sales, or $261 billion, eMarketer predicts. That would represent nearly 16% growth over the $225.5 billion in 2012 U.S. online retail sales estimated by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Worldwide e-commerce sales to consumers by retailers and travel companies will grow to $1.86 trillion by 2016, eMarketer projects. Global growth will increase to 18.3% in 2014, then slow to 14.5% in 2015 and 12.4% in 2016 as the market grows off of a larger base, Fredricksen says.

Most of the growth in the next few years will come from the Asia-Pacific region, where eMarketer predicts the percentage of consumers who make online purchases will grow from 44.6% this year to 54.2% in 2017. Growth will be slower in regions where most consumers already buy online, such as North America (72.0% buying online in 2013) and Western Europe (72.3%). In Central and Eastern Europe, 41.6% of consumers buy online, projected to grow to 44.6% by 2017, eMarketer says. In Latin America comparable figures are 33.0% in 2013 and 37.2% in 2017; and for the Middle East and Africa, 31.3% in 2013 and 36.0% in 2017.

Particularly notable, because of their large populations and relatively low penetration of online shoppers, are China and India. In China, 49.3% of consumers will make at least one online purchase this year, growing to 71.0% in 2017; in India, e-commerce penetration will grow from 23.5% this year to 28.0% in 2017, eMarketer says. In the U.S., 73.0% of consumers will make at least one purchase online this year, growing to 78.4% in 2017.

Worldwide, 40.4% of consumers will make at least one online purchase this year, growing to 45.1% in 2017, eMarketer says.

The eMarketer report only covers sales by businesses to consumers, not sales by individuals to other consumers. That has a big impact on the report’s figures for China, where a large share of e-commerce is considered consumer-to-consumer, and not business-to-consumer. For example, eMarketer estimates that B2C retail and travel sales in China (excluding Hong Kong) in 2012 totaled $110.4 billion; China’s Ministry of Commerce estimates online retail sales alone, excluding travel but including consumer-to-consumer transactions, amounted to $179 billion in 2012. C2C makes a big part of the business of Taobao, China’s dominant online marketplace, which is operated by Alibaba Group, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Asia 500.

EMarketer makes its estimates based on an analysis of data and web traffic from other research firms and by analyzing trends in demographics and consumer adoption of technology.

Here are the top 10 countries for online retail and travel purchases in 2013, with eMarketer’s projection of 2013 e-commerce sales in billions and percentage growth over 2012:

  • U.S., $395.28, 12.4%
  • China, $181.62, 65.1%
  • Japan, $118.59, -7.2%
  • U.K., $99.19, 13.7%
  • Germany, $53.00, 12.8%
  • France, $36.99, 11.0%
  • Australia, $26.77, 6.0%
  • Canada, $24.25, 14.2%
  • Spain, $21.57, 16.2%
  • Italy, $19.80, 22.6%

Other regions where e-commerce is relatively new but growing faster than in the world as a whole are Central and Eastern Europe, projected to grow 20.9% to $48.56 billion this year, and Latin America, which eMarketer predicts will grow 22.1% to $45.98 billion. Russia’s e-commerce sales will total $17.54 billion this year, 21.1% over last year, while Brazil’s online consumer purchases will total $19.74 billion, an increase of 16.5% over 2012, eMarketer says. Brazilian retailers accounted for nearly 51% of the sales of the merchants ranked in Internet Retailer's Top 300 Latin America.

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