Statista reports global B2C e-commerce is expected to grow to $4.5 trillion by 2021, compared to $2.3 trillion in 2017. In contrast, B2B e-commerce sales exceeded $7.7 trillion in 2018. On the other side, eMarketer expects retail e-commerce sales to increase to $4.058 trillion by 2020.
The numbers indicate new opportunities for retailers and B2B companies alike. Therefore, Carmelon Digital Marketing prepared a study that helps you make sense of the trends that will shape the growth of e-commerce in 2018 and beyond.
World’s largest e-commerce markets
China is the world's biggest e-commerce market, with annual sales of over $672 billion thanks to e-commerce platforms like Taobao, Alibaba.com, Tmall, WeChat, and others.
China is followed by the United States, which only generate $340 billion. The United Kingdom, with $99 billion annually rank third. The statistics continue with Japan ($79 billion), Germany ($73 billion), France ($43 billion), South Korea ($37 billion), Canada ($30 billion), Russia ($20 billion), and Brazil ($19 billion) as the top e-commerce markets of the world.
China e-commerce trends 2018
For years now, e-commerce is a vital touch point in the customer journey in China. More than 533 million people in China shop online and many of them use their smartphones for more activities than any other consumers in the world.
China's employment driven by e-commerce is projected to exceed 48 million jobs in 2018 (China Daily).
Looking at what makes China a dominant e-commerce market helps identify opportunities for businesses all over the world. Here are some of the most important trends, summarized:
- Cross-border e-commerce
Cross-border e-commerce, or haitao (海淘), is one of the main revenue drivers in China.
China cross-border retail e-commerce sales are expected to exceed US$115 billion in 2018 and the total transaction value of cross-border e-commerce market in China will exceed RMB 8.8 trillion (US$1.4 trillion) in 2018 (China Internet Watch)
For brands willing to establish a presence in the Chinese e-commerce market, the willingness of Chinese consumers to buy through haitao represents a tremendous business opportunity.
- Digital payments
- Chinese consumers conduct 11 times more mobile payments than their counterparts in the United States. (Visual Capitalist)
- 90% of Chinese consumers have adopted WeChat as a method of payment in offline purchases. (China Channel)
- China is set to be the global leader in digital payments by 2020 (Capgemini and BNP Paribas, 2017).
- Online to Offline (O2O) services
Online to Offline (O2O) is a dynamic business model that creates many opportunities for businesses in every industry.
According to McKinsey & Company, travel is the most popular O2O category, used by 36 % of O2O consumers all over China.
- E-commerce shopping festivals
E-commerce shopping festivals attract thousands of shoppers. The Singles’ Day held on November 11 every year generates more revenue than the Black Friday and Cyber Monday US counterparts. Last year, Singles’ Day, promoted by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, generated more than $25bn (168.2bn yuan) in e-commerce revenues.
Chinese businesses understand the importance of business association. They manage to close strategic partnerships that challenge the status quo. The latest include WeChat and Lego for online games, Halo and Destiny studio Bungie, Walmart Inc. and JD.com, and the list goes on and will continue to grow.
- Live video streaming
Live streaming is one of China’s most popular marketing platforms.
- More than 100 million viewers watch a live online video event every month. (L2)
- China's live streaming sector is expected to be worth $15.9 billion by 2020. (Huachuang Securities)
Chinese e-commerce is booming because businesses understand their consumers and care about their needs.In China, news sites, games, videos, and e-commerce are all interconnected in the significant online hubs, with click-to-buy product placements and quick links to payment options. With the same platform, users can send money to people, order food, call a taxi, pay bills, buy movie tickets, and much more. The shopping experience is easy and fun.
While studying what makes China such a prosperous e-commerce economy is imperative, other markets have different needs and it is essential to look at factors like sources of e-commerce website traffic, digital shopping device usage, shopping behaviors, and consumer expectations to refine strategies for growth.
2018 is also one of the most exciting years for e-commerce with emerging trends like AI, VR, better chatbots, voice search, mobile-first search, machine learning, blockchain and cryptocurrency, and others. Our in-depth E-commerce Trends & innovations 2018 study offers compelling insight into the most important trends of the year.
The e-commerce purchase journey is complex, and it can expand offline. Here, omnichannel is the only strategy that makes sense as it fosters interaction between retailers and shoppers across all channels, from storefronts to smart devices and desktops, through emails, call centers, smartphone applications, and even smart TVs.
The Chinese e-commerce model is a powerful example of what is possible to achieve with the right mobile-branding-customer service combination. China also serves as an example of how using big data and AI can boost sales and revenues.