Retail e-commerce sales – which include products and services (barring travel, restaurant and event ticket sales) ordered via the internet over any device – reached $1.915 trillion in 2016, accounting for 8.7% of total retail spending worldwide.
While the pace of growth for overall retail sales is subdued, the digital portion of sales continues to expand rapidly, with a 23.7% growth rate for 2016. eMarketer expects retail e-commerce sales will increase to $4.058 trillion in 2020, making up 14.6% of total retail spending that year.
In 2016, total retail sales across the globe reached $22.049 trillion, up 6.0% from the previous year — estimates sales will top $27 trillion in 2020, even as annual growth rates slow over the next few years.
eMarketer includes sales across all retail channels in its estimates for total retail sales. This includes sales from e-commerce retailers and transactions that occur over consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platforms such as eBay and other auction sites; and sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers and by gas stations. Travel, event ticket and restaurant sales are excluded.
eMarketer has lowered its projections for overall retail sales since its previous report in December 2015, mainly due to low oil prices and negative currency effects. The US dollar has risen against most major currencies, and as a result the value of retail sales denominated in US dollars is down across all markets in the forecast. Persistent low oil prices also continue to have a profound effect on retail sales value in countries where gasoline takes up a large share of retail sales, including the US, the UK, Canada, France, Singapore and others.
Asia-Pacific will remain the world’s largest retail e-commerce market throughout the period, with sales topping $1 trillion in 2016 and more than double to $2.725 trillion by 2020. The region will also see the fastest rise in retail e-commerce sales, climbing 31.5% this year. Expanding middle classes, greater mobile and internet penetration, growing competition of e-commerce players and improving logistics and infrastructure will all fuel e-commerce growth in the region.
The bulk of retail e-commerce came from China, where sales reached $899.09 billion in 2016, representing almost half (47.0%) of all such sales worldwide. While there is plenty of opportunity for growth, parts of Asia-Pacific are still faced with challenges. In Southeast Asia in particular, e-commerce still represents only a fraction of total retail sales. An underdeveloped digital payments infrastructure and a weak logistics framework have made these markets unprepared to handle high volumes of e-commerce orders and have kept e-commerce at a nascent stage.
Retail e-commerce sales in North America rose to 15.6% in 2016 to reach $423.34 billion, maintaining the area’s status as the world’s second largest regional e-commerce market. The region will see consistent double-digit growth through 2020, fuelled by increased spending from existing digital buyers, expansion into new categories such as grocery, and growing m-commerce sales.