China will displace the US as the world's top retail market in 2019, surpassing the US market by more than US$100 billion, according to eMarketer’s latest worldwide retail and e-commerce forecast.
Despite a slowing economy, total retail sales in China will grow 7.5% to reach $5.636 trillion, while US retail sales will grow 3.3% to reach $5.529 trillion. China’s growth rate will exceed that of the US through 2022, according to the company.
E-commerce is a major driver of China’s retail economy, with sales growing more than 30% in 2019 to reach $1.989 trillion. This means that 35.3% of China’s retail sales occur online, by far the highest rate in the world. In comparison, e-commerce is on track to represent 10.9% of retail sales in the US.
By the end of this year, China will have 55.8% of all online retail sales globally, with that figure expected to exceed 63% by 2022. The US’s share of the global e-commerce market is expected to drop to 15% by 2022.
Alibaba will lead e-commerce sales in China with a 53.3% share. Its share has been steadily declining for the past several years, as smaller players chip away at the e-commerce giant’s dominance. In particular, social commerce platform Pinduoduo has seen triple-digit growth since 2016, although its share remains small.
“Relative newcomers and multichannel retailers continue to take share from giants Alibaba and JD.com,” said Monica Peart, senior forecasting director at eMarketer. “The mature players set their sights on further international expansion. Smaller local players are finding their niche in the Chinese e-commerce market by integrating WeChat and using online-to-offline data to better target consumers."
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eMarketer’s forecasts and estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies, according to the company.