Millions of people have scoured Amazon (US:AMZN), Asos (ASC) and other online shops for Black Friday bargains and Christmas gifts in recent weeks. These e-commerce giants are clearly benefiting from the phenomenal growth in online sales of products and services, but they aren't the only ones: the boom has also been a boon for the payment, logistics and delivery businesses that transform these purchases into reality. Moreover, an entire sub-industry has sprung up of companies that help vendors establish digital storefronts, reach and engage customers around the world, and capitalise on this enormous market opportunity. The rapid growth of these 'e-commerce enablers' represents a lucrative opportunity for investors. Their main challenge, just like shoppers picking out presents or browsing for deals, is making the right choice.
The speed, convenience and value offered by online shopping platforms has fuelled breathless growth in the e-commerce industry: worldwide revenues are on track to more than double to over $4 trillion (£3.2 trillion), or more than six times America's annual defence budget, between 2015 and 2020, according to eMarketer (see chart). Analysts at the market research group forecast annual growth of over 18 per cent during that period, and predict that e-commerce sales will balloon from 7.4 per cent to 14.6 per cent of total retail spending. They also expect two-thirds of sales to stem from Asia Pacific in 2020, up from about 52 per cent in 2015. Drivers of the region's growth include the burgeoning middle class in countries such as China, rising internet penetration and smartphone ownership, improving logistics and infrastructure, and the efforts of both foreign and domestic players to drum up demand.