South Korea Home to APAC's Third-Largest Retail Ecommerce Market - eMarketer
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South Korea Home to APAC's Third-Largest Retail Ecommerce Market

The country has the seventh-biggest retail ecommerce market worldwide

January 7, 2015

Retail ecommerce sales in South Korea are expected to reach $36.76 billion in 2015, according to the latest eMarketer estimates of ecommerce and total retail spending around the world. That figure will be up 11.0% on 2014’s tally of $33.11 billion and will account for 9.8% of retail sales in the country.

Total Retail and Retail Ecommerce* Sales in South Korea, 2013-2018 (billions, % change and % of total retail sales)

Those figures give South Korea the third-largest retail ecommerce market in Asia-Pacific, after China and Japan, and the seventh-largest retail ecommerce market worldwide. In its absolute size, South Korea’s retail ecommerce market is most comparable with France’s—and those two countries are also growing their ecommerce markets at nearly identical rates, though eMarketer expects growth in France to slow more quickly than in South Korea.

Top 10 Countries, Ranked by Retail Ecommerce Sales Worldwide, 2013-2018 (billions and % change)

But the retail world in South Korea is far more penetrated by ecommerce than the French market. In South Korea, 9.8% of all retail sales will occur via the internet this year. That compares with 14.4% in first-place UK, 12.0% in China, 7.1% in the US and just 5.1% in France. Retail ecommerce gains in South Korea are expected to outpace those of the total retail sector for the foreseeable future, and by 2018, eMarketer estimates, 12.0% of retail sales in the country will happen online.

Data from Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) shows that travel-related services were responsible for the largest share of the country’s business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer ecommerce sales in 2013, accounting for 16.7%. eMarketer’s estimates of retail ecommerce sales exclude travel-related products and services. The next most popular category, according to KOSTAT, was clothes, fashion and related goods (16.3%), then household goods, automotive parts and accessories (11.1%), home appliances and telecom equipment (10.6%), food and beverage (8.4%), and computers and computer accessories (8.0%).

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 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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