“Brazil is not for amateurs” is a quote attributed to Brazilian famous bossa nova composer Tom Jobim. Michele Chahin, new country manager of Tiendamia in Brazil, recalled the phrase while announcing that the company wants to speed things up in the country.
In Brazil since 2018, the marketplace hired an experienced advertising executive to lead the business in the country in November last year, when it understood that the strategy adopted so far in other countries in the region would not work in Brazil.
Although Tiendamia was born in the United States seven years ago, the startup has its main office in Uruguay. However, it has expanded throughout the region in the last two years, starting in Argentina, then Ecuador, Brazil, and, more recently, Costa Rica.
So far, the company has raised $1.8 million in two Seed rounds, according to Crunchbase data, and operates sustainably. It has no IPO plans in the short term, but according to Chahin, it is “studying the paths for that” as it looks for ways to scale its operations and expand geographically.
Brazil plays an important role in these plans, but also brings challenges for Tiendamia: the language (Portuguese and not Spanish as in the rest of the region), logistics (Brazil is a continental country, and brings several obstacles in this area compared to other markets where the company operates), the need to offer alternative payment methods (no e-commerce grows in the country offering only credit cards as a payment option), among others.
Step by step, the company is overcoming all of these challenges. In Brazil, Tiendamia already accepts boleto (a type of payment voucher or bank slip that Brazilians use to pay bills and purchases), credit cards and offers installment options up to twelve times, “because we know that the installment payment has a very Brazilian appeal, especially for purchases of slightly higher ticket,” said Chahin. In addition, the company is studying to accept PIX, Brazil‘s instant payments, until the end of the year.
The firm has also been looking at more consolidated brands in the country with which it can associate. With partnerships with retailers, Tiendamia distributes products from the United States that are found at Amazon and Walmart, but the idea is to work in Brazil with a local retailer.
“For strategic reasons,” Chahin did not say how much will be invested in the country but reinforced that, by December, the company expects to see revenues in Brazil grow 400%. “Obviously, we have an investment [plan] behind that.”
To overcome the communication challenge, the company has also bet on localization strategies that go beyond translating the site into Brazilian Portuguese. “Brazilians are very apprehensive when it comes to buying on international websites; people don’t understand how taxes and crossborder fees work. So we put the WhatsApp button on our platform on April 1st to provide [localized] support at the cart [and check-out phases],” said Chahin.
If Brazilian clients have any questions at the time of purchase, they can chat with a chatbot via WhatsApp. If the doubt is not resolved, users can chat with a Brazilian attendant.
“In Uruguay, there is no WhatsApp button, there is no such need. The button is exclusive to Brazil because Brazilians communicate via WhatsApp, buy via WhatsApp, ask questions via WhatsApp,” said Chahin.
Another important localization factor is currency. Tiendamia works with “frozen” prices in dollars; that is, consumers can purchase with their local currency, and even with the dollar’s exchange rate fluctuation, they do not have to pay any difference.
“We do this through an agreement we have with a payment partner, through which we already convert the currency at the time of purchase,” she explains. Thus, all prices on the marketplace are in dollars, mirrored in local currency by the exchange rate at the time of purchase.
Despite the strong competition with e-commerce marketplaces from Asia such as AliExpress and Shopee, which quickly scaled in Brazil, and giants Mercado Libre and Amazon, as well as Brazilian marketplaces such as Magazine Luiza, Americanas/B2W, OLX, Tiendamia, considers that “there is room for everyone” in Brazil.
“Tiendamia positions itself as an e-commerce company that brings products from the United States, so this is already a difference [from others]. The growth of these other platforms is very beneficial for us because people learn how to shop internationally. We are all in the same boat”, said Chahin.
According to the country manager, Tiendamia’s motto is to “feed passions”. The target audience is people who practice a specific sport, collectors, or board games enthusiasts.
Tiendamia’s greatest promise is to bring over products that are not easily found in Brazil, either because they do not exist or are too expensive. “Rather than competing on price and speed of delivery, which is important, we want to reach the person who has a [specific] passion.”
Chahin explained that in the pandemic, many people have started cooking or resumed forgotten hobbies. “We want to harness this movement to help consumers with their passions. We arrived in Brazil and we know we need to take it easy and listen to consumers to adapt our product to the market, which is very peculiar.”