In Consumer and Retail, Ecommerce
Photo of Abel Delgado, Marketing Director at Americas Market Intelligence (AMI).

Abel Delgado
Marketing Director

According to Payments and Commerce Market Intelligence (PCMI), e-commerce transaction volume in Latin America will reach US$509 billion in 2023 and nearly double to reach US$923 billion by 2026. While year-over-year (YoY) growth will slow down from the post-pandemic peaks of 36% in 2021 and 39% in 2022, future YoY e-commerce growth in Latin America should remain robust:

  • 24% projected YoY e-commerce growth for Latin America in 2024
  • 21% projected YoY e-commerce growth for Latin America in 2025
  • 21% projected YoY e-commerce growth for Latin America in 2026

But to maximize your opportunities in the region, it’s crucial to understand market trends, online shopping motivators, shopper preferences, shopper dislikes and more—as wide a range of e-commerce consumer insights for Latin America as can be known.

Using recent data, in this piece we’ll break down 7 key trends to help marketers and e-commerce professionals refine their approaches and maximize their opportunities.

#1: For Latin Americans, Price and Product Descriptions Drive Online Purchase Decisions the Most

A 2023 study by Wunderman Thompson asked shoppers in four countries — Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, which are the top 4 e-commerce markets in the region in sales volume — about the most important aspects of making an online purchase.

The graphic below outlines these aspects, with price and accurate product descriptions tied for first place, while discounts placed last. E-commerce logistics played a significant role as well, with delivery speed (65%), free shipping (63%), a simple returns process (62%) and free returns (61%) considered to be key aspects. (If you need more data on e-commerce logistics, check out our specific articles on this topic for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.)

Most important factors when purchaing a product online

#2: Marketplaces, Supermarkets and Social Media Sites Are the Preferred E-Commerce Sites in Latin America

The Wunderman Thompson study highlights the most-visited e-commerce sites among Latin American shoppers (in the markets studied).

Not surprisingly, the well-established marketplaces like Mercado Libre are the most popular, along with supermarkets and brand websites. Notably, social media sites were preferred by 9% of respondents, reflecting the growth of social commerce (see more on that in trend #5 below.)

Top sites for online shopping

#3: The US and China Are the Top Preferred Countries for Latin American Cross-Border Shopping

A 2022 study from International Post Corporation (IPC) surveyed over 33,000 shoppers in 39 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, about their cross-border shopping habits.

Here is a quick breakdown of the top three cross-border markets that e-commerce shoppers in each of these countries made their most recent purchase from:

Argentina: country of origin of most recent cross-border purchase
Brazil: country of origin of most recent cross-border purchase
Chile: country of origin of most recent cross-border purchase
Mexico: country of origin of most recent cross-border purchase

In the 39 countries overall, the top 3 product categories for cross-border purchases were:

  1. Clothing, footwear and apparel (36%)
  2. Consumer electronics and accessories (20%)
  3. Personal care and beauty (16%)

While the IPS study did not include a wealth of data for specific countries, it did highlight that Amazon is the most popular site for cross-border purchases in Mexico, while Alibaba/AliExpress is the most popular site for cross-border purchases in Chile and Shein is the most popular site for cross-border purchases in Brazil.

#4: LatAm Consumers Search More for Products on Retail Sites Than They Use Search Engines

While marketing data tells us that search engine advertising accounts for 40% of all online ad revenues around the world (more than any other type of digital advertising) there is a different dynamic playing out on Latin America.

Search engines are NOT the place that LatAm smartphone users go to the most when they want to research products to purchase. Instead, according to data from Statista, Latin American smartphone users research products on retail sites/online marketplaces more than via search engines:

Main sources used by smartphone users in Latin America to research products online

This is a significant data point because smartphone users are likely to represent most potential e-commerce customers. Why? First, smartphone adoption in Latin America was at 79% in 2022 (and projected by Statista to reach 93% by 2030). Second, data from PCMI has consistently indicated that in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, most shoppers use mobile phones to shop online. Here is a quick breakdown by country:

Percentage of e-commerce shoppers who shop with a mobile device in 2023

Most B2C marketers working in Latin America are well-aware of this device usage and the corresponding return on investment (ROI) of advertising on e-commerce retailers. As a result, Latin American e-commerce sites are seeing mayor spikes in their digital ad revenues. According to eMarketer, here is the ad revenue growth experienced by LatAm e-commerce sites in 2022:

2022 digital ad revenue growth, e-commerce sites operating in Latin America

According to eMarketer estimates, retail media accounted for 7.7% of digital ad spending in Latin America in 2022. Portada — a leading trade publication for marketing and advertising in Latin America — has forecasted that retail ad spending in the region will reach US$1.66 billion by 2025.

#5 Social Commerce Continues Growing in Latin America

One simple indicator of this trend can be seen in the chart with Statista data that we shared above: 41.4% of LatAm smartphone users go to social media sites to search for products to buy via e-commerce.

Going further, the Wunderman Thompson study indicates that:

  • 82% of Latin Americans have purchased a product via a social media site
    • 63% of Latin Americans made the purchase directly on the social media site
    • 29% of Latin Americans have followed a link on a social media site that led them to a brand’s website where they made the e-commerce purchase

While the data cited above from this study included only participants from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, it’s important to note that these four markets are the largest e-commerce markets in the region and, according to PCMI, they account for 82.3% of Latin America’s overall e-commerce volume. As such, the prevalence of this trend in these four markets has significant weight for marketers focused on social commerce.

In addition, Global Web Index’s Social: Behind the Screens 2023 report asked respondents in 52 countries about their social commerce habits. The study indicated that 42% of Latin Americans had used Facebook Marketplace/Instagram Shopping Bag in the previous month, a larger percentage than any other region surveyed:

Percentage of consumers who have used Facebook marketplace/Instagram shopping bag in the last month (by region).

This study also showed that Latin Americans click the most on social media ads:

Percentage of social media users who have clicked on a promoted/sponsored post on social network in the last month.

*Note: LatAm countries included in this Global Web Index survey were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, which represent 88.9% of the e-commerce volume in Latin America, as extrapolated from PCMI data.

One final data point that is significant: 75% of Latin Americans intend to buy more products through social media sites in the future, as per the Wunderman Thompson study. 

#6 Facebook and Instagram Still Dominate Social Commerce in Latin America

According to Wunderman Thompson’s survey, Latin Americans say they are most likely to make a purchase on the following social media sites:

Facebook              42%

Instagram              31%

Messaging apps     17%

Other                    9%

Pinterest                1%

TikTok has an estimated 136 million users in Latin America (as of 2022) and is projected to reach 173 million users by 2025. But its shopping solution, TikTok Shop, is not yet launched in any Latin American country, so it was not included in the above figures. With its strong user base in the region, TikTok definitely has potential to command a significant share of social commerce purchase intent in the future.

#7: Livestream E-Commerce Gains Ground in Latin America

As one of the newest forms of online shopping, livestream e-commerce is a way of promoting goods by using online videos in which retailers or social media influencers discuss/demonstrate a product online in real time. Potential customers can ask questions or comments and the host will answer them. Livestream e-commerce shows are usually streamed on e-commerce apps, social media sites or on retailer sites such as Amazon.

According to 2022 data from Wunderman Thompson, 46% of Latin American digital buyers have used livestream commerce to purchase products online: more than in the US (45%) and Western Europe (31%), though significantly less than in Asia-Pacific (58%), where livestream e-commerce first took off.

Next Steps

Contact us for a deeper dive into e-commerce in Latin America. At our sister company, PCMI, you can acquire the E-Commerce Data Library for Latin America for a total of 15 markets. Unlike a static, off-the-shelf-report, the E-Commerce Data Library is fully customizable, meaning that our team can adjust the data to your specific needs with further research.

Beyond the Library, our team can also craft a more expansive study to further the success of your ecommerce strategy in Latin America in a variety of ways:

  • A detailed analysis of your target audience’s behavior and preferences, whether it’s for a specific country or a specific product segment in that country (e.g. consumers of cosmetics or apparel in Mexico): this could serve multiple purposes, from strengthening your sales and marketing approaches to improving user experience on your site and more
  • Identifying growing e-commerce markets with the best potential for your products
  • Logistics research to identify the weak points in your company’s process or, alternatively, which adjustments you could employ to make it even more effective
  • Competitive intelligence about your rivals to understand their next moves, strengths and weaknesses

And much more.

Further Reading

Get even more data by reviewing our e-commerce market breakdowns for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, among other markets, or for all of Latin America.

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