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April 28, 2020


The US, China, and the UK dominate e-commerce sales to consumers.


Photo: Santiago Wills, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Colombia to the World Trade Organization, Geneva, speaking at a Trade Forum held from 3 to 4 February 2020 at the United Nations Office at Geneva. Photo: Gerry Kiruthu (UNCTAD). Image provided by UNCTAD. [File Photo]

Geneva, 27 April 2020 - E-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion globally in 2018, up 8% from 2017, according to the latest available estimates released today by the UN trade and development body, UNCTAD, at the start of its UNCTAD eWeek event.

The online event will explore digital solutions and policies to help the world recover from the coronavirus crisis. It runs from 27 April to 1 May and features dialogues among ministers, heads of international organizations, business executives and civil society representatives.

According to the UNCTAD analysis, 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 (GMV), 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, (China) and Amazon were ahead of Alibaba.

Developing and transition countries accounted for about half of the top 20 economies by B2C e-commerce sales. Concerning GDP, B2C e-commerce in these economies was the largest in Hong Kong (China), China and the United Kingdom, and the 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% of Internet users in the United Kingdom shopped online, compared with only 14% in Thailand and 11% in India.

UNCTAD estimates that 1.45 billion people, or one-quarter of the world’s population aged 15 and older, made purchases online in 2018. It was 9% higher than in 2017.

China had the most significant 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 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.

“Still, the number of online shoppers, while massive, is an indication of the scale of the digital divide and the future market potential of e-commerce,” Ms. Sirimanne added.

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

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Edited & Posted by the Editor | 6:13 AM | Link to this Post

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