E-commerce grows in Asia-Pacific, with China leading the way

China and four other regional markets will surpass North America and Europe.

Don Davis

Online retail sales in five of the largest markets in the Asia-Pacific region will soon surpass all e-retail sales in North America and Europe combined, Forrester Research Inc. predicts. Each of those five markets is quite different, however, and requires a distinct strategy for international brands hoping to sell online.

Taken together, online retail sales in the five markets are massive and growing rapidly, from $398 billion in 2013 to $858 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 16.61%, Forrester projects in the report, “Asia Pacific Online Retail Forecast, 2013 to 2018,” by analyst Zia Daniell Wigder. By comparison, Forrester predicts e-retail sales in these five markets—China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia—will reach $768 billion in 2017, nearly 17% more than the $658 billion Forrester predicts in 2017 for the U.S., Canada and Western Europe combined. (Forrester has not yet issued 2018 e-commerce projections for the U.S. and Europe.)

China dwarfs the other countries in the region in online retail sales, and web-only retailers play a larger role in these five countries than in most of the rest of the world, Wigder says in the report. Global brands are paying more attention to online opportunities in the region, and are well represented among the 70,000 brands selling on the large Tmall online marketplace in China, she says. Tmall and its larger sister site, Taobao, which caters to smaller sellers, are both owned by Alibaba Group, the dominant e-commerce company in China and No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Asia 500.

Mobile phone adoption is high in most of these Asia-Pacific markets. And online marketplaces like those operated by Alibaba and competitor Jingdong in China, Rakuten and Amazon.com Inc. in Japan and eBay Inc.’s Gmarket in South Korea, play an outsized role in the region. But Wigder advises foreign retailers and brands against blindly applying a blanket strategy to the region. “Brands must understand that marketplaces play different roles in each country, for example, and that mobile adoption rates and usage vary greatly across the region,” Wigder writes in the report.

Here are highlights of the report by country:


Asia 500, Australia, Chinese e-commerce, Forrester, India, international e-commerce, Japan