Global e-commerce hits $25.6 trillion – latest UNCTAD estimates

US, China and UK dominate e-commerce sales to consumers, with more than 1.4 billion people shopping online in 2018.

E-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion globally in 2018, up 8% from 2017, according to the latest available estimates released today by the UN’s trade and development body, UNCTAD, at the start of its UNCTAD eWeek event.


The online event will explore digital solutions and policies to help the world recover from the coronavirus crisis. It runs from 27 April to 1 May and features dialogues among ministers, heads of international organizations, business executives and civil society representatives.

According to the UNCTAD analysis, the estimated 2018 e-commerce sales value, which includes business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, was equivalent to 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP) that year.

“The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the uptake of digital solutions, tools and services, but the overall impact on the value of e-commerce in 2020 is still hard to predict,” said Shamika Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics.

The 2017 value of global e-commerce was estimated at $23.8 trillion, based on a revised methodology.

Top countries in e-commerce sales

The value of global B2B e-commerce in 2018 was $21 trillion, representing 83% of all e-commerce, comprising both sales on online market platforms and electronic data interchange transactions.

B2C e-commerce was valued at $4.4 trillion, up by 16% from 2017. Cross-border B2C e-commerce sales amounted to $404 billion in 2018, representing an increase of 7% over 2017.

The United States continued to dominate the overall e-commerce market (Table 1). It remained among the top three countries by B2C e-commerce sales, alongside China and the United Kingdom.
Table 1: E-commerce sales: Top ten economies in 2018
Table 1Source: UNCTAD, based on national sources.
Note: Figures in italics are UNCTAD estimates.

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