NEW YORK: Business-to-consumer online sales are growing at 20% a year, driven in part by emerging markets with Asia-Pacific set to overtake North America this year as the world's largest regional ecommerce market.

Latest forecasts from insights provider eMarketer indicate that the global market will reach $1,500bn in 2014, a 20.1% increase on the previous year. Growth in future years will remain in double digits although the rate of increase will slow to 17.6% in 2015, 15.9% in 2016 and 14.8% in 2017, by when total sales will amount to $2,345bn.

There are several factors behind this development, not least the penetration of mobile phones in developing markets which are helping boost mcommerce. Major brands are also pushing into new territories in search of growth.

B2C ecommerce sales are forecast to reach $525.2bn in Asia-Pacific this year making it the world's foremost region in this respect. Growing at almost 37% on 2013, it will surge past North America, which is growing one third as fast, at 12%, to reach $482.6bn.

While the rate of increase in Asia-Pacific will inevitably begin to slow, over the next three to four years it will still be more than twice as fast at that seen in North America, which is projected to continue growing at roughly the same rate of 10% to 11%.

By 2017, B2C ecommerce sales in North America are likely to be around two thirds (63%) the level of those in Asia Pacific.

China, unsurprisingly, is the main source of ecommerce sales in Asia-Pacific, accounting for more than six of every ten dollars spent in this channel, and it will surpass the USA as the world's largest ecommerce market in 2016, eMarketer said.

As regards the world's other regions, Western Europe is the most prominent, with ecommerce sales of $342bn anticipated for 2014, followed by Central and Eastern Europe on $58bn, Latin America on $57.7bn and the Middle East and Africa on $33.8bn.

Within this group, Latin America is expected to overtake Central and Eastern Europe by 2015, although its lead will remain relatively slim in future years.

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff