The emergence of China’s e-commerce market inaugurated a new era of the country’s economy. In 2020, the added value of the digital economy accounted for more than 38 percent of the country’s GDP. In the same year, nearly a quarter of China’s physical goods retail sales were sold online, far above the global average of 18 percent. In 2021, China contributed to more than half of the world’s e-commerce retail sales, with the sales value surpassing the combined total of Europe and the United States. Today, China has the largest digital buyer population in the world, amounting to more than 780 million people.
B2B e-commerce in China
As a result of the fast-developing digitalization of all aspects of modern life, an increasing number of businesses in China have moved online. Owing to its massive manufacturing industry and government support, China remains the home of the world’s largest B2B e-commerce market. Nevertheless, resulting from the robust growth of online retail, the share of B2B e-commerce in China’s total e-commerce revenues has progressively dropped in recent years. By 2019, only 41 percent of China’s e-commerce sales were held by B2B e-commerce, significantly lower compared to its neighbors Japan and South Korea. For nearly a decade, China’s B2B market was ruled by the e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba. Founded in 1999, the six billion U.S. dollar company is currently one of the most prominent public companies in China.
B2C and C2C e-commerce in China
Home to three of the five largest e-retailers globally, China recorded a year-on-year e-commerce retail sales growth of 14.8 percent amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to rapid internet adoption across China, today, the online shopping penetration rate has reached almost 80 percent. Along with the ever-increasing use and distribution of mobile devices, this also means that shopping on smartphones or tablets has become a new norm for Chinese internet users.
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic since early 2020 has also reshaped the landscape of China’s e-retailing. Social restrictions and lockdown measures fueled the development of new online-to-offline retail businesses, such as fresh e-commerce, online food delivery, and community group-buying services. In 2020, around one-fourth of China’s FMCG products were sold through online channels, while only four percent of fast-moving consumer goods were purchased online in the United States.
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