In Logistics

Chile is seen as one of the most stable markets in Latin America, where e-commerce has managed to settle down to a penetration of 88% among the adult population, according to data from Payments and Commerce Market Intelligence (PCMI). PCMI further reports that e-commerce sales in Chile amounted to 10% of GDP in 2022, higher than its share in economies such as Mexico and Argentina, where it stands at 4%.

Competition in e-commerce is high in Chile. Retailers like Walmart, Cencosud, or Falabella are leading the pack in online sales, though marketplaces such as Amazon and Mercado Libre are not far behind. Its success in Chile is essentially down to strategies focused on point-to-point logistics and the development of express shopping. To do this, they have either partnered with last-mile providers like Rappi, or developed proprietary solutions like Spid35. Be that as it may, Chile’s e-commerce leaders have managed to identify their customer pain points and improve, through logistics, their satisfaction throughout the online customer journey.

Continuing our series on logistical challenges in the online customer journey—which has already looked at Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala—we now turn to Chile. We outline below the challenges and opportunities in logistics, and also how the major brands have managed to differentiate themselves.


The 2023 Latin America Logistics Leading Buyers Database

The 2023 Latin America Logistics Leading Buyers Database

400+ key contacts with 250+ detailed profiles


Step 1: the Chilean online buyer becomes motivated

The first step of the online buying journey is motivation.

In Chile, logistics-related factors play a key role in buyer motivation. While fast shipping was a priority for 2 out of 5 Chilean online buyers in 2021, in 2022 this percentage rose to nearly 4 out of 5, becoming the main motivating factor, according to data from the Santiago Chamber of Commerce (CCS in Spanish).

Other aspects related to logistics in Chile, and which motivate online buying, are the ease of exchanging and returning products, as well as the guarantee of receiving the product that was ordered.

Main logistical motivators for online shopping in Chile. Percentage of consumers who prefer features such as fast shipping or a variety of delivery options.

Right now, CCS does not record the success level of the free shipping strategy, so widely used in other Latin American markets, as a buying motivator.


Step 2: the Chilean online buyer makes the purchase

High penetration of durable goods in Chilean e-commerce

In 2022, e-commerce penetration as a share of total retail sales in Chile reached 14%, according to CCS. Durable goods are a prominent segment, as it is estimated that 1 in 2 sales occur in the digital channel (48%). Of these, bedroom products have the highest penetration, with 76% of sales closed online, as this graph shows:

Penetration of online sales in Chile within the durable goods category. In other words, the % attribution of online sales of durable goods over total retail sales. Items such as cell phones, electronics, white goods, photography, etc.

“The fact that durable goods and white goods are categories with a high penetration of sales in the online channel is a reflection of unique progress and development in the Chilean market compared with other Latin American markets. These types of categories are an area of opportunity and innovation for logistics companies willing to grow and win new contracts with the biggest e-tailers, as they are deliveries that require specialized services, where some logistics competitors do not compete, leaving a big gap in service,” says Diego Rodríguez, Logistics Practice Director at Americas Market Intelligence (AMI).

Clothing, the most popular online shopping category in Chile

Chile is among the markets with the highest per capita spending on clothing and footwear in Latin America, beaten only by Uruguay. In 2020 and 2021 Chile saw a recovery in clothing and footwear imports, rising to 3 billion dollars, almost reaching the prepandemic levels of 2018 and 2019, according to data from the WTO.

The clothing category still leads as the most purchased item in Chile since 2020, when it reached a 28% share of total online sales that year, according to CCS. In addition, during the first half of 2023, CCS estimates that 46% of Chilean consumers bought clothing online each month. Footwear was in second place with 30%.

Demographics may be one reason for success in the clothing industry: the average age of the Chilean population is 35.5, according to DatosMundial.com, while Statista’s Consumer Market Insights found that most clothing buyers in Chile are between the ages of 30 and 39.

In Chile, the clothing segment already reached the US$1.2 billion mark in sales in 2022, and CCS has it trending toward US$2.4 billion by 2027.

Most popular products in Chile according to the percentage of online shoppers who purchased these products in the last month.

Chile’s clothing sector has a logistical challenge and a developmental trend: on-demand manufacturing. To quote CCS, “increased efficiency in the manufacturing value chain has enabled a reduction of optimal inventory levels, as production and supply can respond more quickly to demand.” However, CCS says that the adoption of this trend in Chile has been set back by recent interruptions in international transportation.

The dynamics of large retail stores in Chile

A very interesting dynamic has developed in Chilean online sales, namely competition among the country’s leading retailers and marketplaces. Large retail stores such as Líder, Falabella, and París, have taken the lead in domestic e-commerce: 63% of Chile’s online consumers shopped on these sites during the first quarter of 2023, according to CCS. It is worth noting that, according to Euromonitor, businesses like Falabella, founded in Chile, attribute close to 20% of their total sales to the digital channel. Marketplaces (Mercado Libre, Linio, Amazon, etc.), on the other hand, were the second most widely used channel by Chilean online buyers (47%).

Retail landscape in Chile. Companies leading the e-commerce ecosystem in Chile, from minimarket brands, hypermarkets and department stores; online stores or marketplaces, to last mile disruptors. Brands such as Rappi, Spid35, Falabella, Lider, Tottus, etc. are mentioned.

Step 3: the Chilean online buyer receives their product

The third step in the online customer journey is product delivery.

As might be expected, home delivery is the preferred method in Chile. In addition, with some hypermarkets like Jumbo and Líder having mastered e-commerce, home deliveries for groceries have increased significantly. At least 60% of consumers are reporting to CCS that they have had supermarkets making deliveries to their homes since the pandemic. Before the pandemic, this percentage was below 30%.

Most used delivery methods in e-commerce in Chile.

The rise of shipping in online purchases, however, has had significant consequences for Chile. Leaving aside the four large companies in the sector; Correos de Chile, Chilexpress, Blue Express, and Starken, in 2022 there was close to a 25% drop in annual package deliveries for the other companies, according to findings by the consulting firm KawesLab. The number of deliveries was even lower than that recorded 2020. Its analysis concluded that this was due to a “logistics bubble in Chile.” In other words, there was an enormous number of new shipping companies vying for market share―many of them with different specializations―and taking growth space away from traditional companies, which have been losing ground and watching the fall. In 2019, there were around 27 logistics operators; now, in 2023, there are 89. As a result of high competition levels, at least 15 companies in Chile have had to close down.

Competition for express shipping

Yet competition in Chile goes a step further; it is highly adaptable. Convenience stores, hypermarkets and wholesalers (discounters) have developed brands adapted to online sales. SMU has its Telemercados Europa and Unimarc brands; Cencosud has the París and Jumbo brands; Walmart owns Líder; and Falabella has Sodimac, Linio, and Tottus.

To gain greater visibility, these retailers have had to invest heavily in logistics, specifically in what is known as “express logistics.” Cencosud has developed its Spid35 brand to compete in the last mile, offering fast deliveries in under 35 minutes. Conversely, other retailers have solved this need by partnering with last-mile providers like Rappi and Pedidos Ya.

Main last mile and logistics companies operating in Chile. Alliances of these logistics companies with large retailers.

Logistics development of e-commerce players in Chile [1]

Walmart:

  • Attempted (unsuccessfully) to take over delivery platform Cornershop between 2018 and 2020
  • Has invested in shipping services through its Líder app
  • Has opened more than 180 pickup points throughout Chile (buy online, pick up in-store)
  • Opened the El Peñón distribution center in 2019

SMU:

  • In 2021, invested US$4.2 million in developing and launching the online store Unimarc
  • In 2022 it planned to expand its shipping coverage to 16 regions and 25 cities
  • Opened the first robotic order center in Latin America, which would improve shipping speed by 87% and quintuple the processing capacity of e-commerce orders
  • Has partnered with Rappi and PedidosYa to offer express deliveries to more than 16 regions

Cencosud:

  • Plans to invest US$300 million in 2023 for logistical, technological, and e-commerce enhancement of its warehouses in Chile
  • Developed Spid35, the shipping service with deliveries “in under 35 minutes”
  • In 2023 it announced the company’s new domicile in London, the financial ramifications of which remain to be seen

Falabella:[2]

  • Plans to build an online platform “from scratch” to compete directly with the Mercado Libre and Amazon models
  • This platform would unify the online offer of the Falabella, Sodimac, Tottus, and Linio stores
  • Will invest US$386 million in Latin America to improve shipping times and enhance the e-commerce platform
  • Will begin offering free deliveries in under 48 hours

Step 4: the Chilean online buyer could return their product

In Chile, the satisfaction level of online purchases has gone from strength to strength in recent years. In such representative events as CyberDay or CyberMonday, complaint rates barely account for even 0.1% of the total transactions. For example, on CyberDay Chile in 2017, the complaint rate was 0.071%, and dropped to 0.013% in 2022, according to CCS.

In addition, during the third quarter of 2022, CCS reported that just 7% of consumers had a problem with their online purchases in Chile—an all-time low.

As for new buyers, for the last two years, between 80% and 90% of Chilean online consumers have rated their first buying experience as “good” or “very good.”

The online purchasing experience in Chile.

Shipping times have improved, but challenges still remain

Delivery times in Chile were a recurring problem for online shopping in 2020. At that time, 3 out of every 5 buyers (61%) reported problems. By 2022, the percentage had dropped to 38%, although it is still significant.

Other logistics issues, such as damaged products or mistakes in delivery have increased in the last two years, as the graph shows:

Chile and the logistical problems faced in online shopping.

The 2023 Latin America Logistics Leading Buyers Database

The 2023 Latin America Logistics Leading Buyers Database

400+ key contacts with 250+ detailed profiles


AMI, the leading logistics intelligence firm for Latin America

Americas Market Intelligence is the leading consulting firm in e-commerce and the logistics chain in Latin America. We offer multinationals and decision-makers advice on the growth potential of customer segments in their country of interest. Our market studies provide first-hand data and a strategic approach tailored to your growth or investment needs.

Services that might interest you:

  • Identifying the size of your potential market and how to reach it
  • Defining your ideal customer and the current perception of your brand
  • Identifying opportunities for improvement in your current business model
  • Analysis of competitors (including those in the “gray market”) and how to defend or build your current market share

Sources

[1] Tomado de Retailing in Chile, Grocery retailers. October, 2021

[2] Caparroso, J. 2023. “La millonaria apuesta de Falabella para competir con plataformas como Mercado Libre y Amazon”. En: Forbes.co


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