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Latin American Ecommerce Remains Small, with Few Digital Buyers

Digital buyers in the region will represent just 7.9% of the total worldwide

Business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales in Latin America totaled $48.14 billion in 2013—the second-lowest worldwide—eMarketer estimates. Only the Middle East and Africa registered a lower level of digital sales, with $27.00 billion. This year, Latin American ecommerce sales will rise 19.8% to reach $57.69 billion.

As is often the case, Brazil will lead the region through 2017, but it will also become the main reason for slowing growth toward the end of the forecast period. The country’s ecommerce growth will be the first to drop to single digits in 2015, when eMarketer expects an 8.5% increase, pushing the total to $23.05 billion. By comparison, growth in Latin America will hit 12.5% next year, and Argentina and Mexico will post the greatest expansion rates, at 18.0% and 14.5%, respectively.

Directly linked to the still-low level of digital sales in the region, Latin America boasts a relatively small number of digital buyers. According to Forrester Research, Brazil stood out by this metric, too, with 30.9 million residents who purchased online in 2013. Following at a distance, Mexico had 8.4 million consumers who made digital purchases during the same period, while Argentina came in at 7.5 million. Nonetheless, the research company predicted the number of digital buyers in the three nations would expand by 79.3%, 114.0% and 60.0%, respectively, between 2013 and 2018.

These figures are in line with eMarketer’s estimate that there will be 90.3 million digital buyers in Latin America in 2014. This number of users puts the region in second to last once again, ahead of the 65.6 million who will purchase digitally in the Middle East and Africa. By contrast, there will be 529.6 million digital buyers in Asia-Pacific this year and 178.0 million in North America.

eMarketer estimates that, like B2C ecommerce sales growth, total digital buyer growth in each country will start to drop to single digits by 2015, when Argentina (9.3%) and Brazil (9.9%) will do so. Mexico, where internet users have been slow to adopt digital purchasing, will be the only Latin American market that we produce forecasts for to score double-digit growth rates through 2017. There will be 118.7 million digital buyers in Latin America by the end of the forecast period, and Brazil will claim more than one-third of this group each year.

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