E-commerce in Latin America – statistics & facts

In Latin America, as much as in the rest of the world, e-commerce has come to stay. In 2019, it is estimated that the region harbored 267.4 million digital buyers, a figure forecast to grow over 31 percent by 2024. Although the adoption of e-commerce in Latin America is still lower than in other emerging regions, online retail sales in this part of the world generated more than 70 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and are expected to hit 116 billion by 2023. On a regional level, Brazil and Mexico compete for the spotlight, accounting for 32.5 percent and 28.8 percent of the Latin American e-commerce market, respectively. However, other economies such as Peru, Argentina and Colombia have been drawing increasing attention due to their swift growth.

The Mercado Libre hegemony

Mercado Libre has played a leading role in the development of the sector in Latin America. Although the third-party sales giant maintains a growing influence, many competitors are rising to the challenge of catching up with its e-commerce hegemony. The Chilean group Falabella, for instance, has not only been raising its bet on digital channels, but it also has benefited from the 2018 acquisition of the online shopping portal Linio. In the last quarter of 2019, Linio’s online sales revenue reached 75 million U.S. dollars, a value still far behind the 674 million dollars generated by Mercado Libre in that same period. This shows that the online marketplace created in Argentina is still at the top of the list of Latin America-born e-commerce companies. Furthermore, Mercado Libre's Mercado Pago, its online payments branch, processed approximately 19.7 billion U.S. dollars in payments inside and outside its online marketplace.

COVID-19: the ‘new normal’ consumer habits

In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak marked a turning point in Latin America’s online consumer behavior. Confined to their homes, many people resorted to online shopping to supply their needs, activity which had, until then, been ruled out by a significant amount of the population. E-sales in Latin America grew by 230 percent during the first weeks after the declaration of the pandemic. The massive demand for home delivery boosted the growth of e-commerce segments that had already been gaining popularity in recent years, such as food and beverage. According to forecasts, food and personal care is expected to be the fastest growing e-commerce category between 2019 and 2020. Finally, these changes seem to have transcended the coronavirus onset, becoming a normal habit in people's everyday lives. According to a survey conducted between March and April 2020, as much as 78 percent of the Latin Americans surveyed said they would continue shopping online after the pandemic.

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E-commerce in Latin America

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