5 Facts that highlight how huge e-commerce is in Asia


There are some shocking facts and figures that show just how huge the e-commerce market in Asia is. Here’s one to start – The value of e-commerce paid for with something other than a credit card, just in China, is greater than the value of the entire Western European e-commerce market [1].

The entire e-commerce market in Asia is worth $1.4 trillion a year. That’s TRILLION. For comparison, the equivalent figure for Western and Central Europe is less than half at $618 billion. And as more Asian markets transition from developing to developed economies (for example what is happen today in Malaysia according to the World Bank [2]) — and more consumers come online, the Asian e-commerce market will dwarf that of any other region.

Here are five more facts that gives scale to the shocking size of e-commerce in Asia:

  1. By value, the online market for air travel and hotels in Asia is worth $58 billion more than the entire revenue for the whole US air-travel sector, including both online and offline bookings [3].
  2. Each year, the APAC e-commerce market grows by 18% — $252 billion a year. That growth alone, is worth more than the combined e-commerce markets for France, Germany and Italy [1].
  3. In 2018, Chinese shoppers spent $115 billion with merchants based outside of China. That’s bigger than the e-commerce markets of Mexico and Canada combined [4].
  4. The e-commerce market in Southeast Asia is roughly the same size as those of Belgium and Holland. Within six years, it will be as big as the UK’s — Europe’s biggest e-commerce market [1].

But, to succeed in Asian markets, newcomers need to localize. According to the latest 2019 research, when asked what the biggest obstacle was to increasing public participation online, 76% of tech and business leaders surveyed said “language”, specifically the need to be able to read English [5]. Consequently, offering e-commerce pages in target market local languages becomes increasingly important.

But it’s not just language you need to localise. The payments market in Asia is also highly fragmented. And the type of local payment method (LPM) preferred can vary widely, even between neighbouring countries.

In Singapore, for instance, 74% of all e-commerce transactions are paid for using credit card, but most of these are local cards, not the globally familiar ones. In neighbouring Malaysia, on the other hand, just 25% of purchases are paid for by card, with bank transfer being the most popular type of online payment. The only thing the two payment markets have in common, is that merchants won’t be successful in either if they only support familiar Western payment methods and didn’t cater to local preferences.

The easiest way for payment service providers (PSPs) to ensure that they can offer their merchants the right LPM for every market, is to work with partner payment aggregators. Such an aggregator, with its specialist in-market knowledge, can keep on top of the Asian payments market more easily than any single PSP. It can add new payment methods as they become relevant and then make them available to PSPs and their merchants through a single interface and a single contract.

  1. PPRO Original research
  2. Malaysia on track to developed country status — but has far to go, 21 December 2018, Simon Roughneen, Nikkei Asian Review
  3. The total value of all e-commerce in Asia is $1,363.65 billion. 20.53% of 1,363.65 is 280. The US air travel sector is worth $222 billion. US data from “Total operating revenue streams of U.S. airlines from 2004 to 2017 (in billion U.S. dollars)”,
  4. China’s cross-border e-commerce retail market forecast 2018-202, 21 May 2018, China Internet Watch
  5. The Next Billion Online: Asia’s New Opportunity, 17 January 2019, Bookings Holdings