Online retail sales in China will triple to more than US$360 billion (HK$2.8 trillion) by 2015, with nearly a quarter of the population shopping online, according to a global consulting firm report. The Boston Consulting Group said yesterday that China's e-commerce market is expected to account for 8 per cent of the total retail sales in 2015, compared to 5 per cent last year. The growing numbers of internet users and greater consumer acceptance will drive the country to become the largest online retail market in the world in three years. 'Chinese consumers have opened their wallets and pocketbook online,' said Yvonne Zhou Yuan, a BCG principal. 'Online buying and selling, including group buying, has been the second fast-growing activity on the internet after micro-blogging in China.' Going online has been on top of the agenda for many major domestic retailers for the past few years. Suning Appliance, the largest home appliance seller in China, was a pioneer in this market by establishing suning.com three years ago. The company's chairman Zhang Jindong said Suning will switch its business focus from street shops to its shopping portal this year, extending the online product categories from home appliances to books, clothing, jewellery and groceries. 'To go online is not our choice but the customers' choice. Our goal is to build Suning into China's Wal-Mart plus Amazon,' said Zhang. Zhou said many Chinese companies are acting slowly in developing digital marketing strategy. For those who have tapped into the e-commerce market, balancing the online and offline sales channels and minimising the online sales' impact on their own street shops would remain a major challenge. According to the BCG report, China has 193 million online shoppers so far, more than any other market in the world. Online spending amounted to 14.8 per cent of their total spending, and is expected to grow by 15 per cent annually before 2015. The research found that Chinese internet users spent an average 3.6 hours online everyday last year, one hour more than those in the US. Half of the users consider the internet as the most trusted source of information, followed by television at 30 per cent and newspapers at 15 per cent. BCG expects China will add nearly 200 million internet users in three years, reaching an internet population of more than 700 million users, double the combined number of Japan and the US.