BEIJING: Wal-Mart, the retail giant, is enhancing its Chinese ecommerce capabilities, anticipating a surge in demand among the country's rapidly-growing internet audience.

The US multinational is to acquire a minority stake in the parent company of Yihaodian, a specialist digital retailer launched in 2008.

Yihaodian currently offers over 75,000 products to shoppers, spanning the grocery, baby care, apparel and consumer electronics sectors.

"Online sales in China are growing rapidly and are projected to match US online sales in the next few years," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman, Wal-Mart Stores.

"By investing in Yihaodian, we're continuing to establish a presence in this important ecommerce market, and are moving forward on fulfilling our aspiration of being the leading global multichannel retailer."

Alongside boasting 2,000 staff and logistics bases in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, the organisation also provides a next-day delivery service at what were described as "affordable prices".

Wan Ling Martello, Wal-Mart's executive vice president, global ecommerce, emerging markets, suggested the latest addition to its portfolio possessed numerous attractive qualities.

"We are very impressed with Yihaodian's strong management team, solid competence in distribution and outstanding service to their customers," said Martello.

"We have been equally impressed by the fact that their values are consistent with ours."

China IntelliConsulting estimated 185m Chinese consumers bought products via the web in 2010, and gave the category a net worth of 498bn yuan ($76.6bn; €53.7bn; £47.1bn).

Both of these totals are expected to increase dramatically in the future, and Gang Yu, co-founder/chairman of Yihaodian, stated Wal-Mart's expertise could prove invaluable.

"Wal-Mart brings its global vision into our business. In addition, its supply chain excellence will help us gain a competitive edge in the ecommerce industry in China," he said.

Data sourced from Wal-Mart/People's Daily; additional content by Warc staff