China Eclipses the US to Become the World's Largest Retail Market - eMarketer

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China Eclipses the US to Become the World's Largest Retail Market

Mobile now accounts for more than half of all ecommerce sales in China

August 18, 2016

In 2016, China will surpass the US to become the world’s largest retail market with total sales of $4.886 trillion, compared with $4.823 trillion in the US, according to eMarketer’s latest worldwide retail forecast.

Total Retail Sales in China and the US, 2015-2020 (trillions)

China will also remain the world’s largest retail ecommerce market, with sales expected to top $899.09 billion this year, representing almost half (47.0%) of digital retail sales worldwide.

With China having one of the most developed ecommerce markets in the world, eMarketer expects purchases made digitally will represent a globe-topping 18.4% of the country’s total retail sales this year. China will continue to see massive gains in retail ecommerce over the next few years, with sales topping $2.416 trillion in 2020. Spending via mobile is also booming and this year will account for 55.5% of all ecommerce sales and reach 68% by 2020.

China’s booming ecommerce market can be attributed in part to the proliferation of the dominant domestic marketplaces such as Alibaba, Tmall and, which took advantage of the country’s undeveloped traditional retail infrastructure. eMarketer forecasting director Monica Peart commented, “Alibaba, Tmall and positioned themselves well to capitalize on growing consumer demand by creating their own payment systems (e.g., Alibaba’s Alipay) and logistical services (e.g., operates a self-owned logistics network).

Retail Ecommerce Sales Share of Worldwide, China* vs. US**, 2015-2020 (% of total)

“In addition, with rising incomes and increased internet access in rural areas the cultural appetite to shop digitally will continue and we can expect to see further growth in mobile spend,” noted Peart.

Asia-Pacific as a whole remains the world’s largest retail ecommerce market, with sales expected to top $1 trillion in 2016 and more than double to $2.725 trillion by 2020. According to eMarketer’s forecast, the region will also see the fastest rise in retail ecommerce sales, climbing 31.5% this year. Expanding middle classes, greater mobile and internet penetration, growing competition of ecommerce players and improving logistics and infrastructure will all help to fuel ecommerce growth in the region.

Asia-Pacific will continue to lead all regions in total retail sales with $8.997 trillion this year, accounting for 40.8% of the global total. Burgeoning consumer economies in China, India and Indonesia will drive retail sales over the next four years as disposable incomes in those countries continue to rise.

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