The Pandemic and Consumers in Latin America – A Tsunami of E-Commerce?

In June of 2020, as economies were starting to re-open from quarantines, Echo Market Research surveyed over 2,000 online adults in Latin America.

For brands and marketers, this is a pivotal moment not to be missed. Our recent study is part of a new service we have developed, COVID Consumer Snapshot Studies, in which we conduct quick but deeply insightful studies to help companies understand how COVID is impacting their customers.

The Impact on Ecommerce

The pandemic will be viewed as a historical moment for ecommerce in the region. The quarantines – strictest in Colombia –  obligated many people to shop online for the first time. These “Newbies” represent a high of 21% in Colombia, and a low of just 3% in Brazil (the most mature e-commerce market in LatAm).

The lockdowns have caused many consumers to see the value of ecommerce in a new light. A new (and sudden) reliance on the internet, for just about everything, has Latin Americans curious and excited, but also often frustrated with the existing ecosystem that supports ecommerce – slow internet service, and problems with payments, deliveries and returns remain common throughout the region.

Nevertheless, consumers have persisted with shopping online. In March, MercadoLibre’s online sales of home care and laundry products jumped 403% in Mexico and that growth continues; during the month of May, downloads of shopping apps in the region grew 43% year over year, according to Apptopia.

Of special interest to marketers and brands are the Disruptor and Newbie segments. An estimated 40 million Disruptors in the region largely come from the professional and business classes able to shift to remote work and maintain most or all of their income. Disruptors greatly increased their already strong propensity to purchase online; 7 out of 10 say they will make over 40% of their regular purchases online. Highly educated and with good wifi service in their  homes, the Disruptors have discovered new online products to entertain, educate, exercise and otherwise improve themselves.

Newbies – estimated to number close to 34 million – may have been forced to go the party, but they have finally arrived. Skewing female (62%), often single mothers, Newbies juggled a time-stressed lifestyle of work (usually in the informal sector), raising children and sometimes caring for the grandparents. Quarantines left many un- or under-employed and forced them to buy some essential products online. These highly resilient consumers rarely own credit cards but the majority have a debit card and if not, learned how to buy online with a prepaid card, re-loaded with cash.

According to eMarketer, retail ecommerce sales will grow 19.4% to $83.63 billion in Latin America in 2020; 7% higher than previous growth estimates due to the lockdowns.

The data from our survey shows a wave of new ecommerce coming onshore. Source: AMI/Echo survey, N = 2,078

Are you ready? Get Your Market Snapshot

Contact us to explore how we can help you with your own agile snapshot of your target market in Brazil, Mexico or Colombia, that will allow you to adjust to your customers changing attitudes and behaviors.

Study Resources

Finally, if you’d like a more detailed look at our recent COVID consumer study results, please click here to view the video of the webinar in which we shared them.

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