When someone is the most successful at something in Argentina, the person is said to be ‘Gardel’, a nod to tango legend Carlos Gardel (1890-1935). Headquartered in Buenos Aires, Mercado Libre is therefore Gardel at e-commerce in Latin America, a position in part achieved by picking the right dance partners – that is, the biggest markets in the region. The company was founded in August 1999 after a business plan designed by entrepreneur and today CEO Marcos Galperin during his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eight years later, it became the first technology company from Latin America to be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Nowadays, it is in the top three for most valuable retail brands in the subcontinent and ranks first when considering only e-commerce pure players.
From the southernmost tip of Chile all the way up to Tijuana, Mexico, Mercado Libre is present in 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet only one of them calls the brand differently. Brazil – where the enterprise is known as Mercado Livre, in Portuguese – concentrated almost two thirds of the net revenue generated by MercadoLibre, Inc. in 2019. It was followed by Argentina with a share of nearly 20 percent and by Mexico with 12 percent. Also in 2019, the company generated almost 2.3 billion U.S. dollars in revenue, roughly 60 percent more than one year before. The net income, on the other hand, has nosedived from a 136.4 million dollars gain in 2016 to a 172 million dollars loss in 2019. What remains more stable is the usership: both the number of Mercado Libre’s unique buyers and its number of unique sellers have continued to grow over the years.
The conglomerate spans beyond online retail. In 2019, approximately 838 million transactions were made through its digital payment platform Mercado Pago, launched in 2003. Recently, the division processed more payments to small and medium-sized businesses than to Mercado Libre’s online marketplace, which indicates an offline expansion. Its fintech Mercado Crédito was released in 2017 and has provided over 610 million dollars in working capital since. The financial services, however, are just offered to Mercado Libre’s top markets: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Finally, the company’s shipping service, Mercado Envíos, delivered nearly 307 million items throughout 2019. That is almost seven times more than the number of products shipped four years before, in 2015.
But with success comes some fierce competition. Mercado Libre has a comfortable position among retail websites in Argentina, whereas in Brazil local e-tailers such as B2W Digital, Via Varejo, and Magazine Luiza are on the top of their game. In Mexico, Walmart and its subsidiary Bodega Aurrerá are major competitors. However, no assessment of Mercado Libre’s triumph in Latin America can be done without mentioning Amazon. The Argentine giant may be the main reason why Jeff Bezos’s big tech has not yet conquered every market in Latin America the same way it conquered the U.S. market. Passional tango songs often depict betrayals and heartbreaks. Time will tell if Latin American online shoppers in general will remain loyal to Mercado Libre or eventually be fully seduced by Amazon, its powerful, ‘gringo’ nemesis. By now, MercadoLibre, Inc. continues to move at a solid pace, dance step by dance step.
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In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 30 most important statistics relating to "Mercado Libre".