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According to a recent study done by América Economía Intelligence and Visa, e-commerce in Latin America grew by 42.8% between 2010 and 2011 to reach $43 billion, double the amount in 2009, which was $22 billion.
The study indicates that Brazil is the leader in e-commerce in Latin America: in 2011, it accounted for 59% of e-commerce sales in the region. Mexico is #2 in Latin America in e-commerce, with 14.2% of sales. The Caribbean is in third place, with 6.4% of sales, closely followed by Argentina, with 6.2%.
Overall, the study projects that e-commerce in Latin America will increase by 26% in 2012 and then by 28% in 2013.
Why It’s Growing
The study’s authors cited a number of factors for the growth, including:
• Increase in credit card usage, as well as debit cards: both bring more purchasers into the e-commerce marketplace
• Social media and group shopping sites: discounts online attract more shoppers
• Increased online security for safer transactions: this inspires greater consumer confidence
• A larger amount of e-tailers: more Latam companies are innovating online purchase platforms to reach customers via their Web sites
• Advances in banking: lower socioeconomic classes are becoming more involved with online banking, which in turn allows them to shop online more easily
One factor not cited is an additional payment method. In Brazil, buyers can use boletos bancârios, which are vouchers they print from e-commerce sites. They take these boletos to their banks, pay for the product in person and then go back to the Web site to finish the transaction. A similar system was recently introduced in Mexico on a limited scale.
The study also noted another possible factor that could drive e-commerce growth in Latin America: mobile commerce or m-commerce. The study indicated that smartphone and tablet penetration could reach 50% in Latin America by 2015, making mobile a significant platform for e-commerce in the future. Some recent data suggest this could be true. In April e-commerce site Mercado Libre reported that in the past 9 months, it’s registered 2.5 million downloads of its mobile apps and that mobile now represents 3.5% of its traffic.
Growth in Major Markets
Argentina. According to the Cámara Argentina de Comercio Electrónico (Argentine Chamber of E-Commerce or CACE), total e-commerce sales in 2011 were 11.5 billion pesos (US $2.6 million), a 49.5% increase from 2010. In 2012, CACE estimates that e-commerce in Argentina will grow by another 41% to reach US$3.5 million.
Brazil. Research firm e-bit reported that e-commerce sales in Brazil reached US$10.1 billion in 2011. The firm also indicated that 53.7 million purchases were made over the Internet by Brazilians in 2011. In addition, in 2011 there were 9 million new e-commerce customers making a purchase for the first time online, and 61% of them were from the emerging Classe C middle class.
Mexico. In 2011, Mexico’s e-commerce sales totaled US$3.6 billion, according to AMIPCI (Asociación Mexicana del Internet or Mexican Internet Association). This represented 28% growth compared to 2010.
Colombia. There were nearly US$1.2 billion in e-commerce sales in Colombia in 2011, according to Alberto Pardo, president of the Cámara Colombiana de Comercio Electrónico (Colombian Chamber of E-Commerce). It’s projected that sales will grow by 100% in 2012 to reach US$2 billion.
Each market seems to favor different products when it comes to buying online. For Mexicans, for example, plane/bus tickets are the most popular group of products for e-commerce purchases. Tickets to shows rank #2, while hotel reservations rank #3. Rounding out the top 5 are electronic equipment and clothes.
For Brazilians, appliances are the #1 product bought via e-commerce, followed by computers, electronics, health/beauty products and clothes/accessories.
For Argentines, top products to buy online include smartphones, women’s clothes, car accessories, men’s clothes and decorative items for the home.
For other Latin American markets, relatively little has been published about the top products purchased via e-commerce. However, a 2011 study done by Google and D’Alessio IROL that focused on other markets—including Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Panamá, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic—showed that top e-commerce products in those countries included mobile phones, clothes, CDs/DVDs, Internet connection services and computers.