BCG: China Online Sales to Triple By 2015

Online retail sales in China will triple to more than $360 billion by 2015, powered both by growing numbers of Internet users and by greater consumer acceptance of e-commerce, according to a report by The Boston Consulting Group.

If not by 2015, then shortly thereafter, China will likely become the largest online retail market in the world, with close to 10 percent of retail sales occurring online. It already has more online shoppers than any other market, including the U.S. Once a fascination of the young and wealthy, the Internet is fast becoming a mass medium.

China will have 700 million Internet users in 2015—nearly 200 million more than today—and twice the online population of Japan and the U.S. combined. In 2011, Chinese consumers spent 1.9 billion hours a day online—an increase of 60 percent from two years earlier, according to China’s Digital Generations 3.0: The Online Empire.

“In just a few years, China has become the largest Internet market in the world. It will shortly be the most significant, too,” says Christoph Nettesheim, a BCG Senior Partner and coauthor of the report. “Companies with global ambitions need to have an active online presence in China if they expect to succeed.”

Chinese users spend about an hour a day more on the Internet than U.S. users. China’s overall penetration rate will exceed 50 percent by 2015, compared with 38 percent in 2011. The fastest-growing segment will be urban consumers aged 51 and older—a sign that the Internet is spreading through Chinese society.

China has 193 million online shoppers, compared with 170 million in the U.S. Between 2009 and 2011, the share of Internet users who shop online rose from 28 percent to 36 percent.