NEW YORK: Brand owners must enhance their "digital balance sheets" as the rise of ecommerce, the mobile internet and overall web penetration in emerging markets reshapes the trading climate, a study has argued.

According to the management consultancy's figures, the internet economy of the G20 countries - a group including Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, the UK and US - should hit $4.2tr in 2016, up from $2.3tr in 2010.

The main trend supporting this process will be the rapid expansion of the web user base, which is set to surge from 1.9bn to 3bn during the same period. This equates to 45% of the global population.

More specifically, audience in mature markets is due to leap from 508m to 672m between 2005 and 2015. The comparative totals for developing nations stood at 238m and 1.4m respectively.

Another key shift will be towards mobile broadband, with 2.1m people going online in this way by 2015, measured against 573m using fixed-line broadband.

Social media is also likely to play an increasingly important role. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ currently take 22% of web usage time, a market share that has grown extremely quickly.

Many companies have already embraced social media, with 60% of "high-web" enterprises, which are the most engaged with the internet, using these channels to source new ideas from customers, and 45% running their own groups and communities.

In the G-20, goods to a value of $1.3tr were researched online and purchased offline in 2010, equivalent to 7.8% of shoppers' spending in these countries, and demonstrating the wider significance of the net.

The web also generated a consumer surplus – the gap between the worth placed on accessing and using various features by netizens and the amount they spent to do so – reaching 4% of GDP.

In concluding, the study thus recommended that corporations focus on analytics, creating digital "feedback loops", acquiring intellectual property related to new media and enhancing their portfolio of digital capabilities.

"To build equity of their digital balance sheets, most companies will need to run forward into the future while walking backward away from, their traditional businesses," it added.

"They need to recognise relevant patterns in the data, leverage these insights to make operational interventions in deal time and continuously adjust and reinvent their business model."

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff