Retail sales worldwide—including both in-store and internet purchases—will reach $22.492 trillion this year, according to new figures from eMarketer. The global retail market will see steady growth over the next few years, and in 2018, worldwide retail sales will increase 5.5% to reach $28.300 trillion.
This is eMarketer’s first-ever forecast of the global retail market and retail ecommerce sales worldwide. The complete forecast also includes a breakdown of total retail and retail ecommerce sales in 22 countries, as well as the number of consumers who shop and purchase goods via the internet in each of those markets.
When it comes to retail products and services purchased on the internet, ecommerce will account for 5.9% of the total retail market worldwide in 2014, or $1.316 trillion. By 2018, that share will increase significantly to 8.8%, yet retail ecommerce will still account for just a fraction of in-store purchases even as it nears $2.5 trillion by the end of our forecast.
China and the US are by far the world’s leading ecommerce markets, combining for more than 55% of global internet retail sales in 2014. China’s growth over the next five years will widen the gap between the two countries, and China will exceed $1 trillion in retail ecommerce sales by 2018, accounting for more than 40% of the total worldwide. The US will maintain its position as the second-largest retail ecommerce market in 2018, totaling nearly $500 billion that year, while the UK will account for about one-quarter of that figure, landing in a distant third place.
Ecommerce share of total retail sales can mean different things in different markets. In the case of the US, this metric shows the continued strength of brick-and-mortar retail, as well as US consumers’ appetite for purchasing in-store. Approximately 63% of the US population will make a digital purchase this year, yet only 6.5% of US retail sales are expected to come from internet transactions, increasing to 8.9% by 2018. In other words, a majority of US consumers are making purchases online, but more than $10 out of every $11 are still spent in stores.
The other two largest ecommerce markets, China and the UK, have much higher proportions of online-to-total retail sales than the US, and ecommerce trends in each market are unique. For example, digital buyers—consumers who purchase online at least once during the year—will represent only 27.5% of China’s population in 2014, while more than 10% of all retail purchases occur via the internet. This points to the fact that consumers in China who buy online do so often.
On the other hand, more than 73% of the UK’s population will make a purchase online this year. With ecommerce accounting for 13.0% of total retail sales in the UK—leading all countries by this metric—this high volume of digital buyers who purchase online often positions the UK as the third-largest ecommerce market, despite being only eighth-largest in total retail sales.
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.