Driven by a booming population, improving internet access and rising disposable incomes, Asia Pacific is the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce region (yStats). Meanwhile, young, tech-savvy populations underpin rapid growth in Latin America and the Middle East, and e-commerce continues to account for a growing share of retail spending in Europe and North America.
Let’s examine projected growth figures for the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce markets from respected market-research firms, the factors propelling these growth trends and whether they’ll prove durable in the long term.
As the world’s most populous country with GDP growth of 164% from 2003–2013 (Bloomberg Businessweek) China’s influence in the Asia Pacific explosion is clear. In the 2014–2017 China Internet Economy Forecast Report, iResearch predicted that total e-commerce revenue generated in China would soar by 183%, from €77 billion to €218.3 billion by 2017. Gartner, however, believes that India will be the region’s fastest-growing e-commerce market during 2014–2015, projecting sales growth of 70%. Being the world’s second-largest mobile-phone market—84% growth in the second quarter of 2014 (IDC)—is fuelling the Indian surge. Projected to rise from 20% to 52% by 2017 (Redwing), soaring smartphone ownership is also powering Indonesian growth, projected at 45%, 37% and 26% over three years (eMarketer).
Led by Brazil, Latin America trails only China in terms of e-commerce growth (Internet Retailer’s Latin America 500). Mexico, however, will be the world’s fifth-fastest growing national market in 2014 with 20% projected growth, according to eMarketer. The world’s fastest-growing internet penetration rate (Internet Retailer) and a digital-savvy young population—median age of only 28 (CIA World Factbook)—have propelled the sector.
Canada leads e-commerce growth projections in North America with 14%, 13% and 12% forecast annually to 2017 (eMarketer). And projected to grow by 14%, 12% and 11% to 2017, Italy’s e-commerce sector is defying the country’s wider economic trends (eMarketer). Russia is also growing rapidly with 17% and 11% growth forecast over two years (eMarketer).
And Middle Eastern e-commerce sales—particularly in the UAE—are on course to surge by two thirds between 2012 and 2015 (Payfort).
Will these trends persist?
With World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin forecasting that the Chinese economy will maintain annual growth of 7–8% for another two decades, rapid e-commerce expansion is surely assured for many years.
Considerable room for growth remains in India too, where online buyer penetration has yet to reach 25% and only one in six Indians are online (Forrester Research). No wonder eMarketer is projecting average annual e-commerce sales growth of 25% until 2017.
Smartphone penetration in Indonesia, meanwhile, is still only 23% (Nielson), so its steep growth curve is probably durable. Fashion items are driving Indonesian growth (DailySocial Research) along with products with values below €13 (Tiket.com).
eMarketer expects the Mexican e-commerce sector to grow 15% and 10% in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Mexicans spend heavily on ‘flash sale’ sites (heavy discounters), although affluent buyers spend heavily on high-end goods too (Forrester).
Fast-growing emerging markets are opening up to overseas entrants as supply often struggles to meet demand. Take Indonesia, where the “market is growing faster than the industry” (Tiket.com co-founder Natali Ardianto). Hire a reliable logistics partner like bpost International and overseas e-tailers can outflank domestic competition with more sophisticated websites and products otherwise unavailable in emerging economies.