Top 5 Global ECommerce Markets + Strongest Platforms for Sales
April 15, 2022
Margaret Nguyen, AirWallex
Guest post by AirWallex
The eCommerce industry is rapidly expanding across several countries. But there are five in particular where it has become especially prominent.
Money is being made fast and it’s only reasonable that people want to know which eCommerce markets are strongest and the platforms consumers are using to online shop.
Here we’ll take a look at the top five eCommerce countries worldwide, the marketplaces that are gaining the most profit, and why expanding to the UK may be a smart initial move for US-based businesses.
[Related: How to set up business operations in the UK]
What is global eCommerce and why participate?
Global eCommerce is the process of selling products and services in a foreign market through online marketplace platforms. Borders essentially don’t matter.
For comparison, local eCommerce is extremely limited because retailers can only sell within their own country. Global eCommerce, on the other hand, has no limits to who can access your products or services and make a purchase.
Global eCommerce allows businesses to sell essentially anywhere in the world (depending on where you want to expand), but more specifically, anywhere a consumer has access to the internet. The expansive nature of global eCommerce gives merchants the ability to reach new customers in non-native markets.
[Related: Why capital matters for international expansion and where to get it]
Why target these eCommerce markets and their top marketplace platforms?
Currently, the top five countries for eCommerce are:
- China: $2.78 trillion
- The US: $843 billion
- The UK: $169 billion
- Japan: $144 billion
- South Korea: $120 billion
These places are where the money is being made and therefore prime opportunities for business growth and expansion.
While there are many popular online marketplaces, the most popular in these countries are Amazon, Rakuten, Taobao, TMall, and Coupang.
The global eCommerce market is currently worth about 5.5 trillion, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. According to a report by Statista, it’s expected to increase by $4.2 billion come 2025.
Let’s have a look at eCommerce growth and consistency for each of the top five eCommerce countries as of 2021.
China is by far the world’s largest eCommerce market, reeling in an annual $2.78 trillion in online sales. That’s more than half (52%) of its total retail sales.
Its leading online platforms include Taobao and Tmall. And with a growth rate of 21% per year, China is expected to stay at the front of the race.
2. The US
Second down from China is the US.
Amazon and eBay are the top eCommerce platforms in the US, earning $843 billion in annual online sales. ECommerce accounts for 19% of that, so while sales are significantly less than in China, it’s still nothing to look past.
The US originally led the eCommerce industry for more than a decade, and it has also seen growth in each of its sectors.
3. The UK
Despite the UK being much smaller than both the US and China, its eCommerce market stands on its own. The UK is similar to the US in that Amazon and eBay are its top platform leaders for online retail sales.
The UK has around $169 billion in annual online sales, and 4.8% of the retail portion of that is from eCommerce revenue.
Fourth on the list is Japan, with Rakuten being its top marketplace platform. Rakuten acquired various smaller eCommerce companies, including the UK-based Play.com.
Japan gains about $144 billion in annual online sales, with eCommerce bringing in 3% of the total retail portion.
5. South Korea
Fifth place is South Korea, with their total online annual sales reaching $120 billion.
Their leading eCommerce platforms are Gmarket and Coupang, which reel in 2.5% of the country’s total retail sales.
Targeting these countries in your global eCommerce growth plan is one of the most strategic plans you can make for your business. Pursuing these markets is well worth the effort.
[Related: Which eCommerce marketplaces take the least margin from US sellers?]
Top categories and platforms in each country
As of 2022, the top online shopping categories worldwide and their annual earnings are the following:
- Electronics: $1,043 billion
- Fashion: $1,001 billion
- Furniture: $492.6 billion
- Food: $432.1 billion
- Toys, Hobby, DIY: $431.9 billion
Here’s a look into the top eCommerce platforms in China, the US, UK, Japan, and South Korea.
The top eCommerce businesses in China are Alibaba Group, JD, and Pinduoduo with a combined market share of 89.4%. Alibaba Group owns TaoBao and Tmall, whereas JD and Pinduoduo are their own platforms. These four make up the most widely used eCommerce platforms in China.
Taobao is a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) online retail business similar to eBay. It was the eighth most-visited website worldwide in 2021, and received 265.9 million visits per month in China alone.
TMall, formerly known as Taobao Mall, is a business-to-consumer (B2C) business that’s similar to Amazon marketplace, but without nearly as many products. This is because it’s a platform for selling expensive, brand-name products to buyers in the greater area of China. It has about 97.7 million visits per month.
Amazon is by far the most widely used third-party eCommerce platform in the US (and the world). Amazon.com has around two billion visits per month, while eBay has 688.9 million.
While the U.S. is home to the world’s largest economy, it’s still second to China in terms of eCommerce market sales with annual revenue at around $792 billion.
It also doesn’t hurt that the U.S. has one of the highest populations of any country in the world (China having the highest, and India with the second highest). Americans are also known for their consumerism habits. Our high population and buying tendencies combined make eCommerce a thriving industry.
Amazon is the most popular eCommerce platform in the UK as well.
Amazon.com.uk has 407 million visits per month, with eBay.com.uk claiming the second most with 297.9 million, Etsy in third place with 36 million, and Wayfair with 24.1 million.
The UK’s online retail sales are about $131 billion per year (23% of their total retail sales). Compared to the US, online retail sales account for only 14% of total retail sales.
As the world’s third largest economy and fourth largest eCommerce marketplace, Japan has a solid standing in online retail revenue with Amazon and Rakuten being the most commonly used platforms.
Amazon.co.jp has 555.8 million visitors per month, and Rakuten isn’t far behind with its 544.3 million.
Japan is incredibly advanced in technology, which allows eCommerce businesses to thrive. But Japanese culture is also more conservative in its consumerism — a big reason why only 10.2% of Japanese consumers buy from overseas vendors. Compare that to the US with 54% of consumers buying products from overseas.
South Korea earns a rising star shoutout because it beat Germany by almost $20 billion in eCommerce sales in 2021. It’s the fifth largest eCommerce market in the world and expected to reach $99.2 billion by 2025.
South Korea was one of the first countries to launch 5G network services on a commercial scale nationwide, which gave people the ability to shop online more easily.
Coupang is the most commonly used eCommerce platform in South Korea. It brought in $16.6 billion in 2021, followed by SSG with $1.5 billion, and Yes 24 with $541 million. These three eCommerce platforms account for 20% of South Korea’s total online revenue.
[Related: Complete guide: The consumer goods expansion accounting checklist]
Amazon ranks as the top platform overall
Amazon is the top marketplace platform out of the top five countries. In 2021 alone, it earned $469.8 billion in revenue.
Two out of three markets that Amazon dominates are English-speaking countries, so it only makes sense to start selling on Amazon if your US business is looking to expand to the UK and propel its international growth.
If you need some help navigating your expansion, Airwallex offers a UK Growth Guide. We go over everything from hiring in the UK and opening a UK business bank account from the US to CHAPS and BACS payments and much more.
Or, if you want to expand but don’t have the capital, online funding platforms such as 8fig can help. Rather than relying on a one-time disbursement loan, 8fig provides capital on a continuous basis to match the demands of your supply chain.
[Related: 22 ways multi-currency cards give freedom to corporate finance teams]
Contact Airwallex to help with your eCommerce reach
8fig partner Airwallex offers global business accounts to further help your transition by giving your overseas customers and suppliers more options to pay you. We’ll make it as easy as possible to manage your foreign finances without multi-currency payment gateways that make global business effortless.
Margaret Nguyen, AirWallex
Margaret Nguyen, AirWallex
Margaret runs partner marketing for Airwallex US, working with great companies across ecommerce, consumer goods, consulting, and tech to deliver excellent experiences to shared audiences.