Our recently published Forrester Research Online Retail Forecast, 2013 To 2018 (Asia Pacific) reveals some interesting insights on the evolution of online retail spending and the online buyer populations across Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. The forecast details online spend for each of the following categories: computer hardware and software; consumer electronics; beauty and cosmetics; media (books, music, and videos); apparel and accessories; footwear; and appliances (personal and home).

Each country is at one of three different stages of eCommerce adoption:

  • Nascent: In the nascent stage, online buyers form a very small share of the total online population, with only a small percentage of Internet users purchasing online; India is one example. Although the retail opportunity is huge in India, we believe that India is still at least eight years behind China in terms of eCommerce adoption because of infrastructure issues and only minimal government support.
  • Ascending: In the ascending stage, online buyer penetration increases much faster. If it takes 10 years for online buyer penetration to increase from 5% to 25% of the total online population in the nascent stage, it can grow from 25% to 50% in half that time during the ascending stage — driving faster growth in online retail spending. China is in the ascending stage. As a result, the number of online buyers in China will surpass the total population of the US by the end of next year. 
  • Mature: eCommerce in Japan, Australia, and South Korea is now (relatively) mature. Although the opportunity for growth still exists, it is constrained by the tailing off of growth in the number of online buyers.
The drivers for eCommerce growth differ from country to country, driven by: 
  • Growth in the number of online buyers. The large populations of China and India are fueling the growth in the number of online buyers. As buyers' online tenure increases, their comfort with online purchasing will increase as well.
  • Online wallet shift. We see the shift in wallet share to online mostly in developed economies, such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea — they have a mature online buyer population and consumers are already comfortable purchasing items in different categories online. The online wallet shift will continue as consumers expand the number of categories they purchase online.
Despite the global economic slowdown, the combined online retail spending of the five Asia Pacific countries grew nearly fivefold during the past four years because of these growth drivers —and they will continue to drive future growth. We expect the combined online retail spending of Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea to more than double over the next five years, reaching $854 billion by 2018.
1. We forecast eCommerce spending in local currencies. With fluctuating currency valuations (especially as a result of quantitative easing), eCommerce spending in US dollars can change significantly.
2. The forecast is available only to Forrester's ForecastView clients. For non-ForecastView clients, we will publish a syndicated report with the top-line data in a few weeks.
3. ForecastView clients should also look at the Forrester Readiness Index for eCommerce. It helps assess the eCommerce readiness of 55 global economies. We performed the assessment using a quantitative framework that captures 25 variables under four pillars: consumer behavior, merchant adoption, infrastructure support, and the retail opportunity.