Latin American e-commerce is expected to grow 37% by the end of this year, making the region one of the most compelling markets in the world for the sector. By 2025, the two largest Latin American economies, Brazil and Mexico, are expected to keep growing steadily at 30% per year, while newly emerging markets such as Bolivia Guatemala, and Peru may speed up even more, with growth exceeding 40% per year. The data are from the Beyond Borders 2021/2022 study, issued annually by EBANX, a Brazilian payments fintech with global operations which also owns LABS.
According to the report, the e-commerce boom in Latin America is mainly due to two factors. First, the massive uptake of digital payment methods, such as digital wallets and, in Brazil, PIX, which quickly became the new favorite among Brazilians, beating out the traditional payment methods like bank slips or TEDs (as same-day transfers in Brazil are named).
And second, the widespread of so-called “mobile commerce” – either through e-commerce apps or social networks (social commerce). The study states that by the end of this year, almost 60% of all online shopping in Latin America will be paid for over the cell phone.
“The rise of real-time payments such as PIX and digital wallets is transforming Latin Americans’ relationship with digital commerce and creating a race in terms of better shopping experiences, expanded payments options, and even impacting logistics’ prowess and financial innovation,” said João Del Valle, co-founder and CEO at EBANX. In other words: easier to pay, easier to buy.
PIX, a payment ecosystem for all of Latin America?
Launched one year ago, PIX already has more than 112.6 million users (of which 105.2 million are individuals, while another 7.4 million are legal entities) and 348 million registered keys (a kind of a personal PIX code) by the end of October, according to Central Bank data. Since it was launched, PIX has already handled BRL 3.9 trillion.
When looking at the role of PIX in e-commerce transactions, the numbers are equally impressive: according to data gathered by Beyond Borders, PIX is expected to drive about $9.5 billion in online payments in 2021, which represent about 6% of all digital commerce volume in Brazil during 2021. Also, PIX volumes for online purchases will nearly double every year, growing at a 95% rate by 2024, with PIX potentially capturing at least 9% of the total Brazilian e-commerce volume.
“PIX, not just in Latin America, but across the world, has been looked at as one of these success stories of engagement, uptake, financial inclusion, online commerce adoption and substitution of cash,” said Jan Smith, partner at KoreFusion, a strategy consulting and M&A advisory firm specialized in payments and financial services.
In Smith’s view, one of the great reasons for PIX‘s success is the fact that the system was first launched with a focus on peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions and then built up user trust for bill payments, e-commerce shopping, and more. But the Brazilian experience teaches yet other lessons: getting early involvement from all possible stakeholders, developing a roadmap of functionalities, offering a degree of interoperability, and being open to feedback across the board are some of them.
“In Africa, when mobile wallets came, they served the purpose of what PIX is doing right now: starting with P2P payments, then moving into bill payments, online payments, distribution of loans, cashback, etc. PIX can be that. And it can be very well put to use to get more engagement,” said Smith.
E-wallets are on the rise as shoppers move from desktop to mobile
Despite the meteoric pace of the PIX, the method is still exclusive to Brazil, so that, among the alternative payment methods on the rise in e-commerce, e-wallets are now being used to pay for about 11% of all online transactions in Latin America‘s digital commerce ecosystem. The popularity of e-wallets has to do, also, with a kind of migration of the shopper from the desktop to the smartphone.
“The intrinsic mobile experience offered by e-wallets is gaining strength quickly alongside the high smartphone penetration in LatAm. In many countries in the region, there are more adults who have a smartphone than a bank account, converting these mobile gadgets into a fundamental instrument for digitization and financial inclusion,” said Juliana Etcheverry, director of Strategic Payments Partnerships and Market Expansion in LatAm for EBANX.
Latin America becomes a battleground for global and local players
Given this fastest-growing, Latin America has become a crucial region to sustained growth for global companies, which are beginning to struggle with the saturation of the U.S. and European markets. According to the Beyond Borders report, local e-commerce majors such as Mercado Libre, Americanas, and Casas Bahia are competing head-to-head with global players like Amazon, AliExpress and Shopee.
“It is an intriguing scenario for digital commerce in Latin America. It’s a market that is now fully opened to the ones who provide the best shopping experience and engage more deeply with Latin American consumers,” said Del Valle.
The Beyond Borders report is issued annually by the Brazilian fintech company with global operations EBANX. Take a look at the full Beyond Borders 2021/2022 survey here.