APAC online retail sales to hit US$2.5 trillion by 2024, livestreaming commerce to pick up

Online retail sales in 11 Asia Pacific countries is expected to grow from US$1.5 trillion in 2019 to US$2.5 trillion in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3%. According to the latest forecast by Forrester, the countries predicted to see growth are Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. China is projected to remain the largest market, reaching US$2 trillion by 2024 and accounting for 50% of global online retail sales in 2020.

The share of online retail sales is expected to reach 22.8%, with an increase of 3.6%, doubling the growth from last year. Forrester also predicts the Asia Pacific region to lead in online retail penetration during the forecast period and reach 27.4% by 2024. This is mainly attributed to the opportunity that the pandemic offered to increase the amount of online grocery buyers in the 11 countries and the decline in offline retail sales as a result of the movement restrictions. Unlike the US and Europe, smartphone is the preferred device for online buyers in Asia Pacific. About 75.8% of online retail sales in Asia Pacific is predicted to occur on smartphones in 2020, and this will grow at a CAGR of 13.6% to reach US$2 trillion by 2024.

Read also: eCommerce players are taking growth for granted, says new study

On the other hand, physical retail sales in Asia Pacific is expected to dip 4.7% this year, with the total loss of physical retail sales due to COVID-19 amounting to US$762 billion. According to Forrester, this is the highest among all regions, with North America (US$238 billion) and Europe (US$137 billion) trailing behind. Forrester explained that the "relatively moderate decline in sales" is a result of China's fast recovery, which witnessed a dip of 20.8% in January and February this year, but recovered to a decline of 8.1% in the first half of 2020. Likewise, retail sales in South Korea, excluding automobile and fuel, experienced a dip of 3.6% in the first five months of this year compared to last year.

Consumer electronics is found to be the largest retail category in Asia Pacific, accounting for US$260 billion in online retail sales last year. Following close behind is apparel and accessories (US$256.0 billion), grocery (US$96.8 billion) and hardware and furniture (US$93.5 billion).

More than 54% of total consumer electronic sales occurred online in 2019 and Forrester predicts this number to hit 75% by 2024 as a result of the growth in channel share of consumer electronics devices, including smartphones, headphones and smart speakers. According to the forecast, consumer electronics will also be the preferred category among online buyers in Southeast Asian, and will continue to be the main driver of value of sales on Asia Pacific online marketplaces.

While consumer electronics might have had the biggest market share last year, it is predicted to grow at a CAGR 6.7% by 2024. Meanwhile, the grocery sector is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 30% to reach US$359 billion by 2024. The online channel share of grocery is also expected to double from 5.1% in 2020 to 10.6% in 2024, and Forrester said grocery will also be the category where most of marketplaces’ investment will be made in the next five years.

Live-streaming eCommerce to pick up outside of China

Live-streaming commerce is well established in China and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 45.7% to hit US$100 billion by 2023. Forrester predicts more brands to pick up on this area during the upcoming festive sales season in Asia Pacific to make up for the loss in sales during the first half of the year. Meanwhile, social commerce in China will continue on its growth path to reach US$684 billion by 2023. That said, Forrester noted that the growth is not the same for all social commerce players.

While Pinduoduo surpassed 600 million active buyers and had a 108% increase in gross merchandising volume (GMV) during the first quarter of 2020, Yunji witnessed a GMV growth of 2.9% during the same period due to COVID-19 disruptions. This reemphasises the need for a high online buyer base and better distribution and logistics for success in social commerce.

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