BEIJING: Ecommerce sales could more than triple in China by 2015, offering major opportunities for brands in various categories.

Figures from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology revealed that transaction values through this channel climbed by an average of 250% per year from 2005–10, hitting RMB4.5tr.

By the end of its latest five year plan, running from 2011–2015, the Ministry predicted that this amount should hit RMB18tr, as user uptake and product availability both rise.

"Ecommerce has expanded into various industries such as the agriculture, trading, transportation, finance and travel industries and is merging with China's substantial economy," the study said.

According to official totals, 161m people bought goods on the web in 2010, and were collectively responsible for making purchases worth RMB513.1bn, or 3.3% of all retail sales.

More specifically, payments made through third-party online services were worth RMB1tr in 2010, a 60-fold increase from 2005.

Business-to-business transactions are also anticipated to reach a value of RMB15tr by 2015, the Ministry's projections suggested.

Meanwhile, iResearch, the insights provider, reported that online retailers like Taobao, Amazon and 360buy secured RMB179bn in sales last year, a 23.2% share of the entire ecommerce category.

Similarly, iResearch stated that garments and luggage delivered 26.5% of internet retail sales in 2011, ahead of electronics on 24.2%.

"Business-to-customer e-commerce will become the main driver of China's online shopping industry," Ding Jiaqi, an analyst at iResearch, said.

The rise of group buying sites is also exerting an increasingly important influence on the market, with around 4,000 such platforms operating in December 2011, versus 2,630 at the start of the same year.

"About 1m small companies were brought into the e-commerce market through online group buying last year," Chen Shousong, an analyst at Analysys International, the research firm, said.

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff