Latin American e-commerce industry slated to expand 40% this year

Monday, December 5, 2011

Latin America's e-commerce industry is expected to end 2011 with US$35bn in sales, equivalent to 40% yearly growth, international press reported, citing industry sources.

Though the industry is still growing, a decrease in Brazil's e-commerce growth rate has dragged regional figures. E-commerce in Latin America's largest market is expected to grow 35% this year, less than half the rate posted in 2006.

Brazil accounts for 60% of online business in Latin America, according to a joint study by Visa and América Economía. Mexico follows with 12%, then Chile with 5%, Argentina and Venezuela (4%), and Colombia (2%).

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"While e-commerce still represents less than 1% of GDP in Latin America, the average growth reported in the last five years reaches 50%," Visa's e-commerce chief for Latin America, Carolina Forero, was quoted as saying.

The low rate of internet penetration in Latin America and the low banking penetration levels in the region leave plenty of room to grow, according to industry sources.

Internet penetration in Latin America is currently set at 35%, according to tech consultancy IDC - less than half that of the US. Meanwhile, only 37% of the population in the region had a credit card at end-2009, compared to 188% in the US (meaning people have more than one credit card), according to the study by Visa and América Economía.

"E-commerce in the US represents about 10% [of retail sales]. In Latin America, it's lower than 5%, which means there's still room to grow," Latin American e-commerce firm MercadoLibre's (Nasdaq: MELI) CEO, Marcos Galperin, was quoted as saying.