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Worldwide Ecommerce Sales to Increase Nearly 20% in 2014

Asia-Pacific grows fast, while North America and Western Europe remain consistently strong

Business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales worldwide will reach $1.471 trillion in 2014, according to new figures from eMarketer, increasing nearly 20% over 2013. As internet usage continues to mature across the world, ecommerce growth will slow over time, settling around 10% by the end of our forecast period. However, with sales reaching $2.356 trillion in 2018, a 10% growth rate still represents more than $200 billion new dollars that year.

eMarketer’s definition for B2C ecommerce sales includes all products and services ordered or booked via the internet on any device, including leisure and unmanaged business travel.

On a regional basis, North America—which includes only the US and Canada—will remain the leading region in B2C ecommerce sales share in 2014, accounting for around one-third of the dollars spent on digital purchases worldwide. Previously, eMarketer forecast that Asia-Pacific would surpass North America in market share this year, but full-year data from 2013 as well as Q1 2014 data showed China’s B2C ecommerce growth slowing faster than expected due to the market maturing. With China accounting for a significant portion of ecommerce sales in Asia-Pacific, this affected our estimates materially.

eMarketer now expects Asia-Pacific to become the leading region for ecommerce sales in 2015, representing 33.4% of the total, compared with 31.7% in North America and 24.6% Western Europe. These three regions combined will continue to take around 90% of the global ecommerce market throughout our forecast period.

The increase of ecommerce sales in Asia-Pacific is tied to a growing base of digital buyers, and as more new buyers come online, naturally sales will rise. However, by the end of our forecast period, nearly 70% of internet users in both Western Europe and North America will purchase items on digital devices, vs. just over 50% in Asia-Pacific.

Buyer penetration in Asia-Pacific translates to the largest number of consumers, but the region is far more fragmented than North America and Western Europe. In the latter two regions, ecommerce continues to grow at double-digit rates and will do so for several more years. In markets as large as these, this points to the fact that individual buyers are making purchases more frequently and with higher order values, and consumer behaviors are relatively consistent across countries in both regions.

Conversely, consumer behaviors are more disparate across Asia-Pacific countries. China alone will make up more than half of all the region’s ecommerce sales this year, and by 2018, its share will top 70%. Australia and Japan rival markets like the US, UK and Western Europe in buyer penetration and average order values. On the other hand, in less mature markets like India and Indonesia, there are large absolute numbers of digital buyers, but many are new to the market. Instead of buying high-ticket items, new digital buyers tend to wet their feet with less costly purchases, due to product availability or simply to income constraints.

eMarketer bases all of its forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all of its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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