China Ecommerce 2020

Despite Decline, China Will Become the World’s Largest Retail Market This Year

Executive Summary

China has long been the world’s largest market for ecommerce and mcommerce, but this year it will overtake the US to become the world’s largest overall retail market for the first time, despite substantial economic headwinds caused by the pandemic.

What does China’s retail market look like in 2020?

China’s retail market is expected to decline for the first time on record. We forecast that retail sales in China will shrink by 4.0% this year. Still, China will surpass the US to become the largest retail market in the world for the first time—with $5.072 trillion (RMB35.043 trillion) in sales—as the US market will shrink by an even larger margin.

How much will consumers in China spend on retail ecommerce this year?

Consumers will spend $2.090 trillion (RMB14.440 trillion) on retail ecommerce this year, an increase of 16.0%. That is 7.7 percentage points less than our pre-pandemic forecast but still hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending compared with 2019.

How has the pandemic affected China’s top retail ecommerce sites?

Alibaba, and Pinduoduo will command 83.6% of the retail ecommerce market in 2020, compared with 80.3% last year. This growth (including Alibaba’s first share increase in many years) can be traced to their diversified product offerings and resilient logistics, which enabled them to serve consumers during the pandemic better than their smaller competitors.

How will social commerce fare in 2020?

In our inaugural social ecommerce forecast for China, we expect consumers to spend $242.41 billion (RMB1.675 trillion) via social commerce channels this year, up from $186.04 billion (RMB1.285 trillion) last year. WeChat’s successful Mini Programs are proving to be a game changer for this category, even as China is evolving the very definition of social commerce.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report features our latest forecasts for retail sales, retail ecommerce, social commerce, mcommerce, digital buyers and the top ecommerce sites in China.

KEY STAT: For the first time in over a century, the US will cede its position as the largest retail market in the world, as China’s retail market reaches $5.072 trillion (RMB35.043 trillion) this year compared with the US’s $4.894 trillion.

Here’s what’s in the full report


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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. An Overview of China’s Retail Forecast
  3. Ecommerce to the Rescue
  4. The Impact of COVID-19
  1. The Players
  2. China’s Users, Channels and Devices
  3. Key Takeaways
  4. Read Next
  1. Sources
  2. Media Gallery

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Ethan Cramer-Flood


Shelleen Shum
Director, Forecasting

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