China Ecommerce Forecast 2021

Alibaba Is Losing Share, Social Is Booming, and Everyone Is Livestreaming

Executive Summary

The world’s largest ecommerce market expanded by 20.0% last year, but the ways in which its digital buyers and sellers are connecting is just as noteworthy as the spending totals. It seems every internet company in China is now an ecommerce player.

How did ecommerce in China weather the pandemic, and where are the numbers heading?

Ecommerce in China held steady in 2020 but did not boom as much as we initially thought. Growth last year was 20.0%—7.5 percentage points less than we anticipated—for a total of $2.164 trillion. This year, we forecast 18.5% growth, lower than China’s recent figures but still the eighth fastest rate in the world. China will continue to account for more than half of all ecommerce globally (52.1%).

What is the outlook for China’s largest ecommerce players?

Alibaba remains the biggest ecommerce player in the world by sales but had a disappointing 2020 and saw its share of China’s ecommerce market drop below 50% for the first time. Pinduoduo (PDD) and are growing much faster. We forecast that in 2021 PDD will claim a 13.2% share and a 16.9% share. These “Big Three” will account for 77.2% of the market this year.

How big is livestreaming ecommerce in China?

If China’s ecommerce livestreamers were their own country, they would be the third largest retail ecommerce market in the world this year ($299.66 billion in sales). Livestreaming ecommerce grew by 160.0% last year and will grow by another 85.0% this year.

What’s next for social commerce in China?

China’s social commerce figures are already 10 times what they are in the US at $351.65 billion. But the new story is livestreaming social commerce, which will grow by 95.5% this year and account for more than 50% of social commerce by next year.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report features our latest China forecasts for retail sales, retail sales by product category, retail ecommerce, mcommerce, social commerce, livestreaming commerce, livestreaming social commerce, digital buyers, and ecommerce by company.

KEY STAT: Retail ecommerce sales in China increased by 20% last year, less than the 27.5% expansion we previously predicted. This year, we anticipate a continued deceleration, down to 18.5% growth.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Total Retail, Ecommerce, and Mcommerce Sales
  3. Ecommerce Sales by Company
  1. Social, Livestreaming, and (You Guessed It!) Social Livestreaming
  2. Ecommerce Buyers, Including Social and Live
  3. Key Takeaways
  1. Read Next
  2. Media Gallery

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Ethan Cramer-Flood


Paul Briggs
Principal Analyst
Nazmul Islam
Junior Forecasting Analyst
Shelleen Shum
Senior Director, Forecasting

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