Click and Cha-Ching: E-Commerce Shifts Into Higher Gear Around the Globe

Click and Cha-Ching: E-Commerce Shifts Into Higher Gear Around the Globe

Technology has created an instant gratification society. If we want it, we can have it faster than it takes to type a sentence. And it’s only just beginning. In fact, eMarketer estimates that business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales worldwide will reach $1.5 trillion in 2014, up nearly 20 percent from 2013.

Online purchase intention rates for more than half of 22 consumer product categories Nielsen measured in an online survey doubled (in some cases tripled) between 2011 and 2014. High-growth categories include e-books, event tickets, computer software, sporting goods, toys and dolls, music, videos/DVDs/games, baby supplies, flowers, cars, alcoholic drinks and pet-related products*.

But not all e-commerce categories are created equal, as detailed in findings from Nielsen’s Global Survey of E-commerce report.

The most popular online shopping categories are non-consumable—durables and entertainment-related products. Nielsen reports that almost half of global respondents in an online survey intend to purchase clothing or make airline or hotel reservations using an online device during the next six months.

The online market for buying groceries and many other consumable products is smaller by comparison—but it is starting to show promise.

Global online purchase intentions for the cosmetic category increased 6 percentage points in three years, growing from 25 percent in 2011 to 31 percent in 2014, while online purchase intent for groceries rose 5 percentage points, from 22 percent in 2011 to 27 percent in 2014. These numbers are particularly high in the Asia-Pacific region, where China and South Korea are leaders in both categories, with purchase intentions exceeding the global average by about 20 percentage points each.

“While durable and entertainment-based categories are showing a substantial rise in intent, consumable categories like pet supplies and baby supplies are also gaining traction quickly,” said John Burbank, President of Strategic Initiatives, Nielsen. “While online transactions make it easy to download a book, buy a ticket to a sporting event or book a hotel room, building a consumer base for consumable categories requires more marketing muscle. Finding the right balance between meeting shopper needs for assortment and value, while also building trust and overcoming negative perceptions, such as high costs and shipment fees, is vital for continued and sustainable growth.”

These shifts in stated purchase intentions are also supported by purchase data that indicates similar trends. The baby supply category is really taking off in China, Korea, France, the U.S. and the U.K. to name a few countries. For example, sales of baby supplies already comprise three of the top 10 most popular categories sold online in China (based on Nielsen’s retail measurement e-commerce market figures). Meanwhile, in Korea, baby supplies make up two of the top 10 categories, and in France, they account for five. Online shopping accounts for a substantial portion of total diaper and infant formula sales in China (29% diapers/23% formula), Korea (10% diapers/22% formula [hypermarket online sales only]) and France (5% diapers/5% formula).

The report also highlights:

The report also highlights:

  • Online browsing vs. buying intentions.
  • Regional growth opportunities and strongholds for E-commerce.
  • A classification of online consumers and how to effectively reach them.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Survey of E-commerce.


*Pet-related category online growth was between 2012 and 2014.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access across 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.