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China's e-commerce market could top U.S.' by 2015, study finds

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China's online shopping market could reach 2 trillion RMB, or $315 billion, by 2015, which would surpass the United States', according to research by Boston Consulting Group

The study found that within five years, most of today's online shoppers in China will spend about $940 a year, twice what they spend today and close to the average of $1,000 in the U.S., which is currently the world's largest e-commerce market.

BCG also said that Chinese shoppers are the most likely of the world's online consumers to check for product recommendations on social networking and review sites, and that online retail giant Taobao.com is the dominant e-commerce player in China. Last year, the site, which has more than 800 million online products, accounted for 79% of China's online transaction value, selling more than the country's top five physical retailers combined.

The surge in e-commerce spending in China is due in part to an increase in personal incomes and more familiarity with online retail sites. The trend is also benefiting from the limits of brick-and-mortar retailing in China: By 2015, 365 cities will have 100,000 or more middle- and affluent-class consumers, but China's largest retailers have stores in only about 260 cities today, BCG said.

The consulting firm's research included a survey of 4,000 online shoppers in China and looked at the differences between Chinese online shopping behavior versus that of developed markets. It also examined how e-commerce expansion will unfold in China and the biggest challenges companies from outside China face as they try to cash in on the rapid growth. 

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-- Andrea Chang

Photo: An Internet cafe in the Chinese city of Hefei. Credit: Reuters

 
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