SHANGHAI — China is on track to eclipse the U.S. and become the world’s largest retail market this year, according to new data from eMarketer’s worldwide retail forecast report. China is on set to achieve $4.89 trillion in retail sales over the course of 2016, compared with an expected $4.82 trillion in the U.S.
China is already the world’s largest e-commerce market and is expected to retain that title with sales of more than $889 billion online. According to eMarketer, this will represent almost half — 47 percent — of e-commerce sales worldwide this year.
Also a leader in sales via mobile phone — known as m-commerce — the eMarketer study expects 55.5 percent of online retail purchases to be made using a mobile phone in China this year. This represents 18.4 percent of the country’s total retail sales.
“Alibaba, Tmall and JD.com positioned themselves well to capitalize on growing consumer demand by creating their own payment systems and logistical services,” said eMarketer forecasting director Monica Peart. “In addition, with rising incomes and increased Internet access in rural areas the cultural appetite to shop digitally will continue and we can expect to see further growth in mobile spend.”
Asia’s e-commerce market as a whole is also expected to achieve a major milestone in 2016, hitting more than $1 trillion in online sales this year across the region.
Obviously China’s highly developed e-commerce market accounts for much of that trillion-dollar figure, though eMarketer’s data also shows strong e-commerce performances in India and Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, pushing total online sales to record highs.
Asia’s continuing appetite for e-commerce is not expected to be sated in coming years, with eMarketer predicting online sales in the region to more than double to $2.7 trillion by 2020.
“Expanding middle classes, greater mobile and Internet penetration, growing competition of e-commerce players and improving logistics and infrastructure will all help to fuel e-commerce growth in the region,” the report concluded.