If in the last decade the words that ruled the Latin American e-commerce market were inclusion and digitization of the payment methods – and successfully, as the share of Latin American consumers using e-commerce jumped from 45% in the pre-pandemic years to 68% by 2021 and the region’s digital market is expected to grow 30% a year by 2025, an increase comparable only to Asian markets – now the focus shifts to usability and instantaneity.
This analysis appears in the new chapter of Beyond Borders, the annual study on e-commerce and payments by EBANX, a fintech that processes payments for global companies in Latin America. “The last few years were focused on consumer acquisition and the very opening of the digital market; now, the focus will be on building loyalty and monetizing those customers,” said Juliana Etcheverry, director of strategic payment partnerships and market expansion in LatAm at EBANX.
Building loyalty and monetizing the huge contingent of new e-commerce participants is essentially about the shopping experience, crowned, of course, with the payment experience – after all, it is not for nothing that purchases in which the user chooses to pay through a boleto (a type of payment voucher or bank slip that Brazilians use to pay bills and purchases) register the highest dropout rate in e-commerce, and that the major platforms have begun to invest heavily in alternatives to increase the conversion rate of the shopping cart.
With the digitization boom that the region has experienced in the last two years, instant payments will no longer be a trend but a must – in other words, if it takes too long, the customer won’t get on board. “At the end of the day, the popularity of new payment methods and services is all about usability. The consumer must be the center of everything. If the user experience isn’t the best possible, there’s not going to be uptake,” says Etcheverry.
Beyond Borders sheds light on which payment methods should become more popular in e-commerce in the region, such as Buy Now, Pay Later, a solution that offers credit and installment plans from an almost instant analysis, without going through financial institutions. BNPL arrived in Brazil recently, with fintechs such as the Colombian ADDI, and the trend is for the model to double in volume in Latin America by 2025, the fastest growth rate in the world, according to the Global Payments Report 2022, by Worldpay.
This context should boost digital wallets, a product that is already better known to Latin Americans than BNPL, which has been growing about 40% per year in the region. Digital wallets are designed for the mobile experience, like PIX. But beyond a QR Code or contactless payment, they are also an agent for the digital inclusion of millions of underbanked or unbanked people, who have no credit cards or access to other financial services.
The third trend pointed out by Beyond Borders that should become stronger based on usability and instantaneity are the super apps, ecosystems that gather several shopping and payment services, betting on convenience for the user and customer retention. The research points to parallels between Latin American and the Asian market, where super apps such as WeChat (China), Paytm (India), Grab (Singapore), and GoTo (Indonesia) have grabbed a relevant share of the market.
“It’s a very similar population in terms of access to financial services, with high penetration of alternative payment methods and low card penetration. It is a very suitable environment for the super app strategy. The idea is to try to keep the consumer in one place and give them all the payment methods and all the convenience possible,” said Rahm Rajaram, vice president of operations and data at EBANX.
According to the survey, international companies that want to operate in Latin America need to have a payment strategy, since this will be one of the keys to keeping competitive. In some Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Colombia, and Chile, international online sales are growing faster than domestic e-commerce, by the way. In Mexico, the jump was 59% in 2021 – against 28% of local e-commerce. In Colombia, the increase reached 45% (versus 15% of domestic sales), and in Chile, 37% (up from 23% of the local market).
Still, cash payment methods, such as bank slips, are unlikely to disappear completely in the next decade, either because of a very deep-rooted consumption habit or because Latin America is a region with sharp regional differences.
And how do Brazilians pay for their online purchases? Data from 2021 shows that the domestic credit card leads absolute, being used for 56% of purchases. Digital wallets come next, but far behind, with 12%; and in third place, it is boleto, with 10%.
Although PIX was used for only 6% of purchases, according to Beyond Borders, it was the fastest-growing payment method last year, 332% versus 46% for credit cards. From there we see the huge potential of this payment method.
In Mexico, the second-largest economy in the region, the scenario is quite different: on one hand, international credit cards are the most used payment method in e-commerce (41%), also due to the proximity to the United States, which encourages cross-border trade; but while in Brazil debit cards appear with only 5% and cash does not even appear in the list, in Mexico they account for 27% and 14%, respectively.
What is evident is that the more modern payment methods, such as digital wallets and instant payments, have not yet taken off in Mexico as they have in Brazil. When looking at the growth of payment methods, the bank transfer was the one that advanced the most, with 50%, followed by the traditional debit card, with 41%.
The Beyond Borders: from Brazil to Latin America, a payments guide for global businesses is issued by the Brazilian fintech company with global operations EBANX. To download the new Beyond Borders study (in Portuguese), click here.