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Thais trample over Chinese to snatch Asia's e-shopping crown

Mobile driving growth in emerging markets

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Thailand has emerged as the surprise leader in online shopping in Asia thanks to its strength in the mobile space although it is China which will run away with the global e-commerce crown by 2015, according to two new reports out this week.

MasterCard’s Worldwide Online Shopping survey revealed that 80 per cent of people in Thailand and China shop online – more than any in the rest of Asia Pacific.

However, Thai shoppers edged ahead when mobile is included, with 59 per cent shopping online compared to second placed China with just 37 per cent.

Thailand was also one of the fastest growing countries, with figures for those shopping online jumping 11 per cent since the last survey, although Indonesia and the Philippines led the way with 15 per cent increases.

Mobile commerce is understandably growing most quickly in so-called emerging markets, where often consumers’ only means of connecting to the internet is their smartphone.

However, it is more surprising to see apparently mature markets such as New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore all failing to make the top five.

One factor could be that rather than measure total sales in said markets, MasterCard takes the less scientifically accurate approach of interviewing consumers and asking them if they shop online or are likely to do so in the future.

When it comes to retail sales, China is well on its way to becoming the leader in e-commerce, according to the latest figures from Boston Consulting Group.

The market watcher predicted that this will happen around 2015, when close to ten per cent of retail sales will be made online to the tune of around $364bn, the growth driven heavily by huge numbers of rural residents coming online.

The UK is still a world leader in terms of the maturity of its online commerce market though.

A much-reported BCG paper from last month put the UK top of the heap when measuring the “internet economy” or the proportion of GDP which comes from online spend. ®

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