T-Index: a ranking of the top countries for online sales

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Which countries offer the greatest potential for online sales?

T-Index is a statistical index ranking countries according to their potential for online sales. It estimates the market share of each country in relation to global e-commerce by combining the number of Internet users per country with the estimated expenditure per capita.

The study was carried out by TRANSLATED, a leading online translation agency, to guide business clients in their selection of markets and languages for internationalization projects and to help them get the best possible return on investment (ROI).

The results of the study are illustrated in the table below, while the underlying criteria for the study are described in the sections titled "Assumptions & Method" and "Sources".

2017 data

How to interpret the data

Sort by country Sort by language Sort by region

Trend* Regions T-Index
2017
Projection
2021
Languages Internet users Internet
penetration rate
Expenditure p.c. (Internet users)**
Download data in CSV format
* The arrows and dash indicate the country's projected performance in the 2021 rankings.
** Estimated annual expenditure of each Internet user
1
North America 33.3% 0.0% 3 271,049,509 75.9% US$44,872
2
Western Europe 23.1% 0.0% 17 347,942,519 83.0% US$24,246
3
East Asia 18.0% 0.0% 5 858,003,525 55.0% US$7,678
4
South America 5.6% 0.0% 4 242,204,552 57.9% US$8,450
5
North Africa and Middle East 3.5% 0.0% 4 188,064,088 44.5% US$6,735
6
Central and Eastern Europe 3.1% 0.0% 20 153,830,975 59.7% US$7,322
7
Central America and the Caribbean 2.6% 0.0% 3 103,929,189 48.5% US$9,168
8
Southeast Asia 2.5% 0.0% 10 215,174,921 34.1% US$4,249
9
Oceania 2.2% 0.0% 1 25,462,807 66.4% US$31,938
10
North and Central Asia 2.2% 0.0% 7 142,006,916 62.0% US$5,615
11
South Asia 2.1% 0.0% 13 412,581,511 23.7% US$1,865
12
Sub-Saharan Africa 1.9% 0.0% 11 220,138,216 22.2% US$3,079

T-Index Map 2017


The T-Index is a percentage value that estimates the market share of each country in relation to global e-commerce. The higher the T-Index, the higher the online sales potential of a given country.



Internet Freedom Map


In certain countries, translating your website content may not be enough to transform local Internet users into potential customers. The map below shows the countries that currently impose restrictions on Internet access.
Source : Reporters Without Borders




Projection of the top countries leading up to 2021



How to interpret the study


T-Index was developed to help companies aiming to expand internationally to select their target markets and decide on the most suitable target languages when translating their website(s).

Let's take an example.

A UK-based company specializing in the sale of winter sports merchandise has a website in English and wishes to translate it into another European language in order to reach new customers online. After conducting market research, the company’s marketing manager concludes that their products would be highly likely to succeed in Germany, Sweden and Norway. By accessing T-Index, it quickly becomes clear that Germany, with a 4.7% market share, is the market with the greatest potential for online sales, given its 71,543,310 Internet users, each with an average annual expenditure of US$24,045. T-Index has therefore acted as a decisive factor in the choice of German as a new language for the site.

News & Forecasts


The United States, with a T-Index value of 30.9%, is the country with the highest potential for online sales in 2017, with more than 239 million Internet users with an average annual expenditure of US$47,239 per capita.

The United States is currently a long way ahead of China, which ranks second with 9.1%. The 21.8-point gap between the ranking leaders can be explained by the huge difference in average expenditure between North American Internet users (US$47,239) and Chinese Internet users (US$4,818), although China has nearly three times more Internet users than the USA, making it the world leader in terms of Web users.

According to the T-Index projection leading up to 2021, China will quickly gain ground on the United States, with a market share of 13.7% in 2021 versus 22.1% for the United States.

In order to calculate a projection for the period leading up to 2021, we extrapolated a line from the 2005 and 2015 data points using simple linear regression*. The projection assumes a linear growth trend for all countries.

Japan ranks third with a market share of 6.6%, followed by the leading European nations: the United Kingdom, Germany and France, in 4th, 5th and 6th place respectively. While the UK maintains its market share of 4.9% compared with last year, Germany sees an almost 10% decrease in its market share (4.7% in 2017 versus 5.2% in 2016) and subsequently drops to 5th place, behind the UK. This can be explained by the decrease in the annual per capita expenditure of its Internet users, which fell from US$28,551 to US$24,045, according to our calculations.

Brazil ranks 7th with a market share of 2.8%. It is 10 places ahead of the second South American country in the ranking: Argentina, which comes in 17th with a T-Index value of 0.94%. Argentina has leapfrogged Switzerland and the Netherlands in the ranking since last year, and is expected to increase its market share by 50% by 2021 (0.94% now versus 1.4% in 2021) and thus take 15th place. As for Brazil, it is expected to surge to 4th place by 2021 with an estimated market share of 4.6%, overtaking Germany, France and the UK.

Italy, Canada and Australia round out the top 10 for 2017 with T-Index values of 2.6%, 2.3% and 2% respectively. Australia takes 10th place from Russia, which drops to 14th with a market share of 1.7% compared to 2.3% in last year’s ranking. According to our projection based on simple linear regression, Canada and Italy will drop out of the top 10 in the 2021 ranking, while Australia should maintain its 10th place. Russia is expected to perform extremely well, jumping from 14th to 5th place with a market share of 3.4% in 2021 (versus 1.7% in 2017).

Top 10 countries for e-commerce, projection up to 2021


India, the world’s second most populous country, ranks 15th in 2017 with a T-Index of 1.7%. According to our projections, it should enter the top 10 in 2021, taking 9th place ahead of Australia, Canada and Italy. As the Internet penetration rate climbs (predicted to reach 52% by 2021**), more and more Indian people are browsing online in their native language. The number of Indian people browsing the Internet in English is falling, and we predict that by 2021 it will be exceeded by the combined number of people browsing the Internet in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil and Telugu.

The countries expected to show the strongest growth in their market share between 2017 and 2021 are China (+4.6 percentage points), Brazil (+1.8 p.p.), Russia (+1.7 p.p.), India (+0.8 p.p.) and Nigeria (+0.5 p.p.), while the countries expected to show the biggest decrease are the USA (-8.9 p.p.), the UK (-2 p.p.), Germany (-1.4 p.p.), Japan (-1.2 p.p.) and South Korea (-0.5 p.p.).

Fastest-rising countries between 2017 and 2021


If we sort the ranking by language, it becomes clear that the study predicts greater linguistic diversity in the future and the rapid decline of English by 2021, with the rise of what are presently considered minority languages. In 2017, just 2 languages are needed to reach 50% of the world’s online purchasing power, while in 2021 3 will be necessary (English 34.7%, Chinese 13.9%, and Spanish 8.4%). Portuguese should pass German and French with a 5% market share and thus become the 5th most important language for online sales by 2021, just behind Japanese.

*See Wikipedia for further information.

** Google and KPMG report ‘Indian languages – Defining India’s Internet’, April 2017

Assumptions & Method


T-Index is a tool designed to support decision-making for companies faced with a choice of markets and languages when localizing their website(s). It gives an overview of each country’s online sales potential.

T-Index 2017 uses the latest statistical data provided by the World Bank database, i.e. data for 2015.

The T-Index value is calculated by multiplying the total number of Internet users by their estimated annual expenditure per capita.

In order to estimate the annual per capita expenditure of each Internet user, we used the HFCE (household final consumption expenditure) indicator from the World Bank expressed in current US dollars. The HFCE is the market value of all the goods and services purchased by households in each country. Please note that the calculation method used for previous versions of T-Index prior to 2016 was based on GDP instead of HFCE. We changed our calculation method in 2016 to give a more realistic overview of the real spending potential of Internet users in each country. You can find the details of our calculation method below.

Each country was classified according to the language most commonly used by the local population to browse and make purchases on the Web. For reasons of statistical significance, the coexistence of multiple languages within the same country was only taken into account where the T-Index value of the country exceeded 0.1%. In the latter case, only languages used online on a daily basis by more than 15% of the population were considered, except in cases where the minority languages in question (used online by less than 15% of the population) are also official national languages. For example, Switzerland, with a T-Index of 0.94%, was evaluated for three different language markets: German, French and Italian. All three of these languages are used on a daily basis by the Swiss people to browse and make purchases on the Web. While French and German are both used by more than 15% of the population, Italian is used by only 7% of the country’s Internet users. However, Italian is a nationally-recognized official language of Switzerland, hence its inclusion in the T-Index.

The T-Index study only includes languages used for browsing the Web. A number of languages are currently very scarcely represented online, with some not being used at all. In many countries, the language spoken on a daily basis by the majority of the population cannot be found online, such as Kinyarwanda in Rwanda. This is often due to a low Internet penetration rate, which prevents local people from accessing the Web to create content in their native language. In Rwanda, the 18% of the total population that has Internet access browses the Web in English, given that little or no content has been created by and for Rwandans in their national language. This is why T-Index includes Rwanda in the English-language market.

Languages with international variants have been grouped together. For example, UK and US English have both been classified as English.

Dependent territories (e.g. Puerto Rico) have been evaluated according to their respective governing state, provided they share the same language. If they do not share the same language, as is the case with Puerto Rico and the United States, they are included as separate entries based on the language market to which they belong.

The T-Index study does not cover all countries. The countries included in the study are those for which it was possible to find data on the number of Internet users. Without this data, the evaluation would have been impossible.

Calculation method


Firstly, we gathered information about each country’s total number of Internet users, HFCE and total population, from which we determined both the Internet penetration rate* and the HFCE per capita for each country. We then analyzed each country's Internet penetration rate and income distribution to determine the proportion of the HFCE theoretically spent by Internet users. Finally, in order to obtain the "HFCE per capita of Internet users", i.e. an estimation of their annual expenditure, we made the following calculation: (country's total population x country's HFCE per capita x percentage of HFCE theoretically spent by Internet users)/number of Internet users.

For countries where income distribution data was not available, we calculated the average income distribution for all countries and used this estimate.

In order to determine the proportion of HFCE theoretically spent by Internet users, we assumed that the Internet users in each country belong to the richest segment of the country’s population. We made this assumption bearing in mind that a certain income level is necessary in most countries to purchase an Internet subscription and take part in e-commerce activities.

*The Internet penetration rate is the percentage of Internet users in a given country.

Example


In Japan, the number of Internet users is 115,605,881 out of a total population of 126,958,472. The Internet penetration rate is therefore 91.06%. In 2015, Japan’s HFCE per capita was $19,526. Using the country’s income distribution by quintiles, we estimated that 91.06% of the richest people in Japan spend 96.7% of the total expenditure of Japanese households. To obtain the "HFCE per capita of Internet users", we then made a simple calculation:

(total population x HFCE per capita x % of expenditure spent by Internet users) / number of Internet users

Applied to Japan: (126,958,472 x 19,526 x 96.7%) / 115,605,881
The estimated HFCE per capita of Internet users in Japan is thus US$20,740.

To obtain the T-Index value, we multiplied the number of Internet users by the HFCE per capita of its Internet users. For Japan: 115,605,881 x US$20,740. Finally, to obtain a percentage value for each country, we divided each country's T-Index value by the sum of the T-Index values of all the countries. This explains how we obtained a T-Index of 6.6% for Japan.

Sources


The number of Internet users in each country is taken from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report "Percentage of individuals using the Internet". ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies. The statistics were estimates for 2015. To change the percentage figures into whole figures, we combined the figures from this report with the ones from the total population report produced by the World Bank.

The total population of each country is taken from the World Bank. The statistics were up-to-date as of 2015.

Data on HFCE (household final consumption expenditure) is taken from the World Bank. Data was up-to-date as of 2015 and is given in current US dollars. Please note that currency exchange rate fluctuations (national currencies versus US dollars) have an impact on the HFCE values expressed in current US dollars, and consequently on the current and estimated T-Index values. We chose to use HFCE values expressed in current US dollars instead of HFCE values expressed in current international dollars using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates because our study focuses on global e-commerce opportunities, and these are assessed in part on the basis of currency exchange rate fluctuations between countries. For countries or territories whose HFCE was not indicated in the aforementioned World Bank report, the data was estimated by our agency. The HFCE figures of the following 39 countries were estimated by our agency: Andorra, Bahrain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Monaco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome And Principe, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Syria, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

To determine whether Internet access is restricted in a given country, we looked at the ranking provided by the international non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders, available on its official website.

The distribution of income by quintiles is taken from the statistical data of the Development Research Group of the World Bank. The data refers to various years (the World Bank data ranges from 1992 to 2014).


This ranking may only be freely reused and shared if a link back to this page is provided and it is made clear to users that the data comes from the T-Index study. Please copy and paste the following statement:

T-Index Study 2017, by TRANSLATED. TRANSLATED is the leading professional online translation agency providing language services to over 100,000 international customers for more than 15 years:
www.translated.net/en/languages-that-matter

Credits


Many thanks to all the people who provided us with useful data or tips (in alphabetical order):

Contacts


For further information, please contact Aurore Claverie at: aurore@translated.net

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