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Top 10 economies in UNCTD E-commerce Index 2018, no China

Date: 2019-10-14

The Global B2C E-commerce Index 2018 was recently released at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD), with the Netherlands claiming first place. But surprisingly, China and the United States, two largest global e-commerce markets, didn’t find a place in the top 10.

Eight of the top 10 shopping countries are in Europe

The first African E-commerce Summit opened in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, on Dec 10. The summit, initiated by UNCTD, carried the theme of “Empowering African Economy in Digital Era” and aimed at exploring the business opportunities brought by the rapid digitalization of African countries.

Statistics provided by the UNCTD showed that there were 21 million online shoppers in Africa by the end of 2017, accounting for merely 2 percent of its total population. Meanwhile, the number of online shoppers in Africa has been growing at an annual rate of 18 percent since 2014, higher than the global average growth rate of 12 percent. The UNCTD counted on the efforts of local governments to improve the internet connection of the whole continent.

During the summit, the UNCTD released the Global B2C E-commerce Index 2018. The index measures a country’s readiness of developing an e-commerce market. The index includes 151 countries. The ranking is given based on the mean value of four indicators, which are the proportional distribution of account holders at financial institutions or mobile money service providers, usage rate of internet, reliability of postal service, and security of servers.

The top 10 countries and their scores are as follows:


The index shows that eight of the top 10 online shopping countries are in Europe, and they are very closely positioned. The tenth spot is only four points behind the first spot.

The Netherlands claims the first place. Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of technical department at the UNCTD, said that most indicators of the Netherlands are of high value, particularly its density of using secure servers, a significant indicator of measuring an e-commerce store. The density ranks first among the 151 countries being evaluated. The proportion of online shoppers of the country ranks second. Among the shoppers, 76 percent are aged 15 and above. Moreover, the Netherlands has already has over 40,000 online-only retailers, the highest number among European Union countries.

Singapore and Switzerland takes the second and the third places respectively. Singapore climbed 16 places in the ranking and all its indicators rose compared to that of 2017. Its financial accounts, usage rate of secure servers, and reliability of postal service all ranked on top, but its usage rate of internet are lower than the average. And its online shopping level is also lower than expectation. The indicators of Switzerland were delightful. The country has all the elements that make world’s best e-commerce market.

The United Kingdom climbed up to the fourth place from the sixth place in the previous year. Like the Netherlands and Switzerland, the scores of all its indicators are at 90 or above, offering a sound environment for online shopping. The average online expenditure of all the shoppers in UK are the highest in Europe.

Norway and Sweden ranked fifth and eighth respectively. Apart from the density of using secure servers, other indicators were among the highest level in the world.

Iceland ranks the sixth. Its internet users account for 98 percent of its total population, the highest in the world. But the reliability of its postal service is relatively low, which may be attributed to the country’s challenging landform and weather.

New Zealand ranks the ninth and Denmark ranks the tenth.

Emerging markets that deserve attention

According to the e-commerce index released by UNCTD, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) does well in the usage rate of internet and the amount of financial accounts, which shows that it is the fourth developing country suitable to develop an e-commerce market, but “there is still room for improvement in aspects of server security and postal service reliability”. UAE ranked 33rd in the list.

The UNCTD report says that one sign that shows UAE has the potential of developing an e-commerce market is that Amazon purchased UAE’s online retailer with 583 million dollars last May. The other sign is the establishment of CommerCity in Dubai, the first e-commerce industrial park in the Middle East and the North Africa, at a cost of 735 million dollars.

According to a report released by Fitch Solutions Macro Research, a subsidiary of international rating institution Fitch, the e-commerce market in the Middle East is growing at the fastest speed in the world. And UAE’s e-commerce sales revenue is expected to double by 2021 to 48.8 billion dollars. Its e-commerce expenditure will rise sharply by 170 percent from 9.7 billion dollars to 27.1 billion dollars in 2022, which means UAE will become one of the countries with a leading e-commerce market in the world.

Again, according to the UNCTD e-commerce index, Singapore is the most suitable developing country or region for developing e-commerce market, followed by Hong Kong and South Korea. However, the proportion of internet users in UAE is the highest, 95 percent of the country’s total population. The report says that nine of the top 10 developing countries in the list are from East Asia or West Asia, and all are upper-middle-income countries or high-income countries.

The report also says that Saudi Arabia has the largest B2C e-commerce market in the Persian Gulf Region, which helps it gain the 10th place among developing countries in the ranking. It also mentioned that the Saudi Arabian government spoke of the index and ways to improve its ranking in a 2017 report. “Saudi Arabia can encourage more people to use banks and credit cards and optimize the security of internet servers (every 1 million users online at the same time) to improve its ranking.”

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