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Ecommerce Drives Retail Sales Growth in China

Mobile to account for half of ecommerce sales this year

September 25, 2015 | Retail & Ecommerce

Although China's economy as a whole has suffered from a great deal of instability this year, its ecommerce sector is and will remain a major driver of economic growth, as internet penetration and smartphone ownership continue to increase. A new eMarketer report, “China Ecommerce: 2015 Market Update,” explores how the digital retail market is developing in the country.

Retail Ecommerce Sales in China, 2014-2018 (billions, % change and % of total retail sales)

China's macro economy has showed sustained signs of weakness throughout 2015, with the real economy struggling to perform a turnaround. A cooling housing market, comparatively weak investment growth and slumping exports have weighed on the country's fortunes, despite a series of fiscal and monetary policy easing measures by the central government and sustained intervention in the stock market.

Ecommerce is a primary driver of China's retail sales growth. eMarketer estimates that retail ecommerce sales, excluding travel and events tickets, will rise 42.1% in 2015 to $672.01 billion, easily making China the world's largest ecommerce market. In fact, China will account for just over 40% of the world's retail ecommerce sales this year.

"Ecommerce is weathering the overall economic slowdown better than any other sector, and overall retail is still growing quite a lot faster than GDP," said Mark Tanner, managing director of China Skinny, a Shanghai-based marketing and research agency.

Retail Mcommerce Sales in China, 2014-2019

Mobile will account for about half of retail ecommerce sales in China this year, eMarketer estimates. That compares with 22% in the US and 33% in the UK, according to eMarketer figures, and less than a fifth in other developed economies, including France, Canada and the Netherlands, according to data from RetailMeNot's June 2015 "Mobile Retailing in Europe and North America" report. China's mcommerce sector is more than four times bigger by sales value than that of the US, eMarketer calculates.

Mcommerce has surged alongside mobile internet adoption in China. MasterCard Worldwide's "2014 Mobile Shopping Survey: Asia-Pacific Edition" suggests that mobile phone internet penetration has reached a saturation point among China's internet users, with some 98.6% having mobile web access last year—the second-highest rate in the region. eMarketer estimates that slightly under half of China's overall population will access the internet in 2015.

eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “China Ecommerce: 2015 Market Update.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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