Impact & Expertise

Press Releases

  • April 12, 2012
  • Online Retail Sales in China Will Triple to More than $360 Billion by 2015, as the Internet Adds Nearly 200 Million Users

  • The Internet Market Is Quickly Becoming Sophisticated, as China’s “Digital Generations” Grow Up, According to a Report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

BEIJING, April 12, 2012—Online retail sales in China will triple to more than $360 billion by 2015, powered both by growing numbers of Internet users and by greater consumer acceptance of e-commerce, according to a report by The Boston Consulting Group.

If not by 2015, then shortly thereafter, China will likely become the largest online retail market in the world, with close to 10 percent of retail sales occurring online. It already has more online shoppers than any other market, including the U.S.

Once a fascination of the young and wealthy, the Internet is fast becoming a mass medium. China will have 700 million Internet users in 2015—nearly 200 million more than today—and twice the online population of Japan and the U.S. combined. In 2011, Chinese consumers spent 1.9 billion hours a day online—an increase of 60 percent from two years earlier, according to China’s Digital Generations 3.0: The Online Empire.

“In just a few years, China has become the largest Internet market in the world. It will shortly be the most significant, too,” said Christoph Nettesheim, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. “Companies with global ambitions need to have an active online presence in China if they expect to succeed.”

Average time online per user increased from 2.8 to 3.6 hours per day between 2008 and 2011. Chinese users spend about an hour a day more on the Internet than U.S. users.

China’s overall penetration rate will exceed 50 percent by 2015, compared with 38 percent in 2011. The fastest-growing segment will be urban consumers aged 51 and older—a sign that the Internet is spreading through Chinese society. This segment will likely expand by 22 percent annually.

Half of Internet users say that the Internet is their most trusted source of information, followed by television at 30 percent and newspapers at 15 percent, according to our research. Young professionals and university students lead the pack, with 70 percent and 63 percent, respectively, citing it as their most trustworthy information source.

China has 193 million online shoppers, compared with 170 million in the U.S. Between 2009 and 2011, the share of Internet users who shop online rose from 28 percent to 36 percent. The share of online shoppers will likely reach 47 percent by 2015.

As the Chinese become more comfortable with the Internet, they are becoming more adventurous. For instance, 79 percent of Chinese Internet users send instant messages, compared with just 21 percent of U.S. users. They are also bigger consumers of online music (79 percent versus 61 percent) and e-books (40 percent versus 7 percent). Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, has attracted 300 million users in less than three years of operation.

 “Faster than in any other major economy, the Internet is becoming embedded in Chinese society,” said David C. Michael, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. “The rapid growth represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for companies that figure out how to connect with China’s digital generations.”

Most companies have not yet shifted their marketing budgets and orientation to the online world. The share of overall ad spending devoted to the online channel is expected to rise from an estimated 13 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2015—far less than the 64 percent of media time that users now devote to the Internet.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at www.bcgperspectives.com.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

About bcgperspectives.com

Bcgperspectives.com features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management’s agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG’s extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm’s founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content—including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports—can be accessed by PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 81 offices in 45 countries.

Recent Releases

  • April 14, 2014 Former Cisco CIO Robbert Kuppens Joins BCG as Global CIO view full release
  • April 10, 2014 Higher Education Finds Promise in Peril view full release
  • April 09, 2014 Mexico’s Historic Energy Reforms Promise to Spur Investment view full release
  • April 07, 2014 To Cope with Complexity, Leaders Must Learn What Employees Actually Do; Usual Management Toolkits Are Likely Counter-Productive, Says New Book by The Boston Consulting Group view full release
  • April 02, 2014 Report Offers Solutions to Narrow $1 Trillion-a-Year Infrastructure Gap view full release
  • March 24, 2014 Former IRS Acting Commissioner and OMB Executive Daniel Werfel Joins BCG’s Public Sector Practice view full release
  • March 13, 2014 African Consumers Are Optimistic and Eager to Spend, but Selective and Highly Conscious of Brands—Even at Lower Income Levels view full release
  • March 11, 2014 Large Companies Claw Back Some Momentum in 2013’s Slower-Growth U.S. Consumer-Packaged-Goods Market view full release
  • February 25, 2014 China’s Growing Health and Wellness Market Is Poised to Reach Nearly $70 Billion by 2020 view full release
  • February 13, 2014 Nearly Every Manufacturer in the U.S. Will Benefit from Low-Cost Natural Gas view full release

Accelerating Out of the Great Recession

Accelerating Out of the Great RecessionThis book details what high-performing companies must do to seize advantage in a slow-growth environment. more

BCG Offices

Globe BCG has more than 80 offices around the world. Learn about our global presence.
Go

Social Impact

We are compelled to utilize our expertise to work with humanitarian organizations that impact local communities and the world at large. More