E-commerce sales around the world reaches $25.6tn in 2018 – UNCTAD

As the coronavirus wreaks havoc on lives and economies around the world, new estimates in a report released by the UNCTAD, the UN agency responsible for trade and development, shows that e-commerce has risen to $25.6 trillion in 2018.

According to the report released Monday April 27, 2020 and copied to ghanabusinessnews.com, more than 1.4 billion people shopped online with the US, China and the UK dominating e-commerce sales to consumers.

The $25.6 trillion global rise in 2018, is an 8 per cent increase from 2017, according to the estimates.

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

Commenting, Shamika Sirimanne, the UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics said, “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.”

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

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

The organization notes that B2C e-commerce was valued at $4.4 trillion, up by 16 per cent from 2017. Cross-border B2C e-commerce sales amounted to $404 billion in 2018, representing an increase of 7 per cent 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, it said.

The report points out that 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 (GMV).

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, the report said.

According to the report, developing and transition economies accounted for about half of the top 20 economies by B2C e-commerce sales. In relation to GDP, B2C e-commerce in these economies was the largest in Hong Kong (China), China and the United Kingdom, and smallest in India, Brazil and Russia.

Among the top 20 economies, the extent to which Internet users engage in online purchases varies considerably. For example, in 2018, 87 per cent of Internet users in the United Kingdom shopped online, compared with only 14 per cent in Thailand and 11 per cent in India.

More than 1.4 billion people shopped online and more bought from abroad.

According to UNCTAD’s estimates, 1.45 billion people, or one quarter of the world’s population aged 15 and older, made purchases online in 2018. This is 9 per cent higher than in 2017.

China had the largest number of online shoppers at 610 million, according to the report. 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 report said.

It found that the interest in buying from foreign suppliers continued to expand. The share of cross-border online shoppers to all online shoppers rose from 17 per cent in 2016 to 23 per cent in 2018.

“Still the number of online shoppers, while huge, is an indication of the scale of the digital divide and the future market potential of e-commerce, both of which need to be addressed,” Ms. Sirimanne added.

Today only half of the world’s 7.7 billion people are connected to the internet and its benefits. This limits the ability of many developing countries to use digital solutions to cope with the current health and economic crisis, the report noted.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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