Trends in Global eCommerce: News You Can Use


The United Nations has just published a comprehensive and fascinating report on the comparative state of the Digital Economy as it affects the entire world today. It’s hundreds of pages long, but it includes a whole section on global eCommerce trends. That part of the report is worth a look for insights that help e-merchants plan how they’ll scale up for the future. We will get into that a little further along, after a quick look at its major findings.

The Macro View

Growth in Digital: Winners and Losers

Globally, IP traffic has exploded in exponential numbers since 1992, when worldwide data flows (IP traffic) were at about 100 GB per day. In less than three years, that number is projected to be 150,700 GB per second.

But even today, there’s a big digital divide: half the world’s population is still offline. In less developed countries, the divide is even more dramatic: only 1 in 5 are online.

The U.S. and China hold most of the marbles. Between the two countries, they comprise 75% of the cloud computing market, and own 90% of the market capitalization value of the world’s 70 largest digital platforms. By comparison, Europe has only 3.8% of digital platform assets worldwide.

Another key finding of the report is that overall cloud traffic from users has increased everywhere across the planet, but in some regions usage has grown at significantly higher rates than others in the last 5 years. Among all regions, Asia and Western Europe have seen the largest increases in users.

Now, let’s turn the focus to the sector we really care about: eCommerce.

Which countries benefit most from global eCommerce?

Your first guess was probably right. As the tables and graphs below illustrate, the United States accounts for more than half of all cross-border B2C sales among the top 10 merchandise-exporting countries. Interestingly, the UK, Germany and Italy all account for a greater share of overall sales, which indicates that the products they’re exporting sell in lower volumes, but carry a much higher price tag than products shipped offshore from the U.S.

The share of cross-border online shoppers (vs domestic online shoppers) rose from 15% to 21% between 2015 and 2017. Most of this growth was driven by American shoppers buying from foreign suppliers.

Measuring cross-border B2C sales

Consumer spending by country

And once again, the U.S and China are boss when it comes to average consumer spending online. In fact, the Chinese spend about 25% more than US consumers– but China also has a far larger population so that’s not so surprising. This table includes B2B sales in its calculations, which indicates that US software makers (which make up the lion’s share of B2B products sold online) still dominate their industry worldwide.

Here’s the part you can really use, right now.

The UNCTAD report thoughtfully included this summary of the fees and sales commissions charged by several of the world’s largest digital platforms and marketplaces.

This could be a handy reference if you’ve been thinking about expanding your sales channels into new marketplaces.

What kinds of fees are charged by e-commerce platforms: stats

It’s always useful to know what is happening around the world: where new economic engines are revving up, where consumers have a growing thirst for new products, and how much spending power exists in each potential cross-border market. If you have the time and interest to read the entire 194-page report, you can find it here.

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