Global e-commerce sales grew an annual 13% in 2017 touching an estimated $29 trillion, according to the latest numbers released by the Geneva-headquartered United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The global trade body also highlighted that a similar surge was seen in the number of online shoppers, which jumped by 12% to 1.3 billion people, or one quarter of the world’s population.
Though most Internet buyers purchased goods and services from domestic vendors, the share of those buying from abroad rose from 15% in 2015 to 21% in 2017. The growth was driven mainly by an increase in sales in the United States. Meanwhile, cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) sales reached an estimated $412 billion, accounting for almost 11% of total B2C e-commerce – a 4% rise over the previous year’s numbers.
“The new figures show that e-commerce is indeed creating export opportunities,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “But the question from a development standpoint is whether businesses in developing countries are prepared to seize the opportunities,” Kituyi added.
With almost $9 trillion in online sales, the U.S. topped the list of countries with highest e-commerce revenue. Online sales in the U.S. were three times higher than in Japan and more than four times those of China.
Interestingly, with $400 billion worth of e-commerce sales, India ranked ninth on the list. According to UNCTAD estimates, in India over 91% of e-commerce sales, $369 billion, are in the B2B (business to business) category. While $31 billion of e-commerce sales were generated through B2C (business to consumer) medium. And, the annual average spent per online shopper in India worked out to $1,130.
The B2B e-commerce dominance in India is similar to that seen globally – 88% of all online sales. Interestingly though, B2C was the segment that saw the most growth, increasing by 22% to reach $3.9 trillion in 2017. Here, China increased its lead on the United States in 2017.