Global e-commerce sales surged to $29 trillion (UNCTAD)

One quarter of the world’s population purchased goods online in 2017, a 12% jump from the previous year.

Global e-commerce sales grew 13% in 2017, hitting an estimated $29 trillion, according to the latest numbers released today by UNCTAD.

A similar surge was seen in the number of online shoppers, which jumped by 12% and stood at 1.3 billion people, or one quarter of the world’s population.

Though most internet buyers purchased goods and services from domestic vendors, the share of those buying from abroad rose from 15% in 2015 to 21% in 2017. The growth was driven mainly by an increase in the United States.

As a result, cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) sales reached an estimated $412 billion, accounting for almost 11% of total B2C e-commerce ­­– a 4% hike on the previous year’s numbers.

“The new figures show that e-commerce is indeed creating export opportunities,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

“But the question from a development standpoint is whether businesses in developing countries are prepared to seize the opportunities,” he said, adding that this will be discussed at eCommerce Week 2019, held from 1 to 5 April at the United Nation’s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

United States holds on to the top spot

Little change occurred in the list of the top ten e-commerce markets, with the United States holding on to its top position. At almost $9 trillion, online sales there were three times higher than in Japan and more than four times higher than in China.

The only shuffle in the list was Germany’s overtaking of the Republic of Korea as the fourth largest online market.

B2C saw the most growth

While business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce continued to dominate – accounting for 88% of all online sales – B2C was the segment that saw the most growth, increasing by 22% to reach $3.9 trillion in 2017.

In the B2C realm, China increased its lead on the United States, while the United Kingdom held on to third place.

But UK consumers were still the most likely to shop on the internet, with a whopping 82% of people aged 15 and older making purchases online in 2017. Overall, however, China had the largest number of internet buyers at 440 million.

Information on the data sources and methodology is available here.

Top ten countries by E-commerce sales, 2017

Rank Economy Total

($ billion)

As a share (%) of GDP B2B

($ billion)

Share (%) of all e-commerce B2C

($ billion)

Annual average spend per online shopper ($)
1 United States 8,883 46 8,129 90 753 3,851
2 Japan 2,975 61 2,828 95 147 3,248
3 China 1,931 16 869 49 1,062 2,574
4 Germany 1,503 41 1,414 92 88 1,668
5 Korea (Rep.) 1,290 84 1,220 95 69 2,983
6 United Kingdom 755 29 548 74 206 4,658
7 France 734 28 642 87 92 2,577
8 Canada 512 31 452 90 60 3,130
9 India 400 15 369 91 31 1,130
10 Italy 333 17 310 93 23 1,493
  Top 10 Total 19,315 36 16,782 87 2,533 2,904
  World 29,367 25,516 $3,851  

Source: UNCTAD.

Note: Figures in italics are UNCTAD estimates. Spain was in the top ten of B2C sales (Italy would be 13th in the B2C category alone).

Estimated cross border B2C sales of top ten merchandize exporters, 2017

Rank Economy Total

($ billion)

As a share (%) of merchandize exports % of B2C
1 United States 102 6.6 13.5
2 China 79 3.5 7.5
3 United Kingdom 31 7.0 15.0
4 Japan 18 2.6 12.2
5 Germany 15 1.0 17.1
6 France 10 1.8 10.6
7 Canada 8 1.8 12.7
8 Italy 4 0.7 16.2
9 Korea (Rep.) 3 0.5 3.8
10 Netherlands 1 0.2 5.0
Top 10 Total 270 3.0 10.7
World 412 2.3 10.7

Source: UNCTAD

Global online shoppers (million), 2015-2017

Global online shoppers

 

READ MORE