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WhatsApp in Brazil – statistics & facts

Brazil is, by far, the largest market for WhatsApp out of Asia. Combined, the third and fourth countries with the highest numbers of WhatsApp users worldwide – Russia and Indonesia — still had 20 percent fewer people on the mobile app than the Portuguese-speaking country as early as 2020. That year, Brazil was home to an estimated 146.6 million WhatsApp users. This represents 55 percent of the app’s user base in the entire South American subcontinent. This mobile messaging solution, acquired by Facebook, Inc. in 2014, is hegemonic in the Brazilian market, intertwining with local lifestyles. With that much power comes even greater opportunities, but also calls for greater responsibility.

From instant messenger to e-commerce channel

WhatsApp is becoming a recurring tool for online sales in Brazil. Almost 10 percent of mobile internet users surveyed in September 2020 said they used the app for ordering food. Its presence in Brazilian e-commerce also takes place through WhatsApp Business, a spin-off that allows small and medium-sized enterprises to interact with clients and create online catalogs. As of February 2021, one out of five of its catalogs worldwide were uploaded in Brazil. Large corporations also benefit from the trend. Throughout 2020, WhatsApp sales accounted for 16 percent of the total sales of Via Varejo, one of the largest retailers in that country. In the last quarter of that year alone, the share surpassed 20 percent.

The challenges of digital privacy and fake news

WhatsApp is a source of news for many Brazilians. Nearly half of the people surveyed online in 2020 said they turned to this mobile app to access news content. However, not always users perceive the content shared by friends, family, and acquaintances as reliable. Another study, conducted later that same year, shows that 90 percent of respondents stated that there should be a law obliging social media companies to protect users from fake news in Brazil. This issue, along with concerns regarding digital privacy, is leading some Brazilians to turn to other instant messengers. Between 2019 and 2021, the penetration rate of the Telegram app among mobile internet users in Brazil zoomed from 13 to 45 percent. Time will tell if WhatsApp can connect people and support businesses while preventing privacy breaches and overcoming the hurdles of the post-truth era.

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WhatsApp in Brazil

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