BEIJING: Emerging markets like China, Brazil, Russia and Chile present the greatest opportunities for firms active in the ecommerce sector, according to a report from AT Kearney.

The consultancy rated the digital attractiveness, infrastructure and regulation of numerous fast-growth markets, as well as their overall retail climate. China led the resultant charts, as total sales are expected to increase from $23bn in 2011 to $81bn in 2016.

At present, 164m of the country's 513m web users buy goods via the web, and firms ranging from 360buy and Taobao to Amazon and Walmart are attempting to gain ground.

Challenges to growth remain, however. "China's infrastructure challenges hinder realisation of the country's full e-commerce potential, Mike Moriarty, an AT Kearney partner, said.

"Delivery infrastructure varies outside of metropolitan hubs and inhibits the efficiency and effectiveness of the 'last mile' of online retail product delivery."

Second place in the rankings went to Brazil, where returns are due to jump from $10.6bn in 2011 to $18.7bn in 2016. Many middle class shoppers in Brazil use this channel to get more "bang for the buck", the study argued.

Group buying sites are particularly popular, with 10m people completing over 20m transactions on these platforms last year. Appliances and electronics are the leading categories, but apparel remains "marginal".

Third position in the charts went to Russia, where online sales are anticipated to top $16bn by 2016, measured against the $9bn generated over the course of last year by some 15m shoppers.

Mobile is set to be a particularly important channel in Russia going forward, as 1.8 phones per person are currently in circulation, and many shoppers "regularly" browse the internet in this way.

Elsewhere, Chile, in fourth, should see ecommerce revenues double from $749m to $1.5bn. The average household in the country spends $158 online a year, compared with a norm of $44 across Latin America.

Mexico claimed fifth spot, as its internet retail market is forecast to expand from $1.2bn in 2011 to $4.4bn by 2016. The country's web penetration rate, currently at 31%, is also among the fastest-growing in the world. 

The UAE came next, and is currently worth $227m. Per capita sales stand at $9,155, a total "on a par" with the US and Sweden, suggesting a high level of maturity. It is also a "gateway" to the rest of the Middle East.

Malaysia, where sales came in at $250m in 2011, and Uruguay, on $43m, are both expected to see demand double going forward. Turkey, on $1.3bn, and Oman, on a more modest $111m, made up the top ten in terms of holding the highest growth potential.

Data sourced from AT Kearney; additional content by Warc staff