Global e-commerce hits US$25.6 trillion

E-commerce sales hit US$25.6 trillion globally in 2018, up 8% from 2017, according to the latest available estimates released on 27 Apr by the UN’s trade and development body, UNCTAD. 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 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.  It remained among the top three countries by B2C e-commerce sales, alongside China and the United Kingdom.  The leading B2C e-commerce companies are based mostly in China and the United States.  The world’s top 10 B2C companies in 2018 generated almost $2 trillion in gross merchandise value, according to the report.

Alibaba (China) was far ahead with a GMV of $866 billion in 2018, followed by Amazon (United States) with $277 billion.  However, in terms of revenue, JD.com (China) and Amazon were ahead of Alibaba.

UNCTAD estimates that 1.45 billion people, or one quarter of the world’s population aged 15 and older, made purchases online in 2018. This is 9% higher than in 2017.  China had the largest number of online shoppers at 610 million.  While the bulk of online shoppers mainly bought from domestic suppliers, some 330 million online shoppers made cross-border purchases in 2018 — a little more than one in five of all online shoppers.

The interest in buying from foreign suppliers continued to expand. The share of cross-border online shoppers to all online shoppers rose from 17% in 2016 to 23% in 2018.

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