China’s e-commerce market racked up a whopping 1.3 trillion RMB ($190 billion USD) worth of transactions in 2012, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) (linked article is in Chinese), an increase of 66.5 percent over 2011’s total.
Last year, 242 million Internet users purchased goods online, and e-commerce transactions accounted for 6.1 percent of total retail sales of consumer goods.
The growth was driven in large part by mobile users: during the last half of 2012, 40.7 percent of online shoppers used a mobile device to browse e-commerce merchandise. More than half–53.6 percent–browsed a merchandiser’s mobile app instead of accessing its main Web site through their device’s Internet browser. 53.3 percent of the respondents who used their mobile devices to shop said they did so while at home, and many stated that their smartphones had begun to replace their home PCs. 26.2 percent said they browsed items on their smartphones while at work or school, and 10.6 percent said they spent their commutes or time waiting in queues to shop.
In addition to mobile, social media platforms also drove e-commerce sales. 41.8 percent of shoppers said they had first seen information or promotions for a product on a social media site before deciding to purchase it.
Each shopper spent an average of 5,203 RMB (or about $843 USD), an increase of 1,302 RMB ($211 USD), or 25 percent, from the year before. According to the report, the most frequently purchased items were clothing and shoes, which 81.8 percent of online shoppers bought during the last six months of 2012. General merchandise accounted for 31.6 percent of sales, while consumer electronics made up 29.6 percent of the total.
While the latest figures from CNNIC are impressive, China’s e-commerce market still has plenty of room to grow and is set to overtake America’s. As this Economist story notes, the Chinese e-commerce market is currently dominated by Alibaba, which last year handled 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion USD) in sales through two of its portals, Taobao and Tmall, and is on its way to becoming the first online retail company in the world to handle $1 trillion a year in transactions. Taobao is a C2C marketplace with more than 800 million product listings and 500 million registered users, according to Alibaba. B2C platform Tmall counts major international brands like Microsoft, Nike and Unilever among its 50,000 merchants.