Even though e-commerce is 15 years year old in countries such as Brazil, there’s still plenty of room for web sales growth in Latin America. And the retailers growing the fastest online are a combination of newly launched online retailers and companies from outside the region, including Amazon.com Inc., according to an analysis of data from Internet Retailer’s newly published 2014 Latin America 500.
Overall the collective web sales of the 500 merchants ranked in the Latin America 500 grew 23% in 2013 to $17.94 billion. To put that number into context, Latin America is now the second fastest-growing international e-commerce market behind China, where the retailers ranked in Internet Retailer’s 2014 China 500 grew combined 2013 web sales 65% to $73.58 billion. Latin America’s top e-retailers grew faster than e-commerce in the U.S., where online retailing grew 17% to $263.3 billion in 2013 and the U.S. retailers ranked in the 2014 Top 500 Guide grew 16% to $161.95 billion. The Latin America 500 also grew faster than the merchants ranked in the 2014 Europe 500, which increased their combined web sales 17% to $155.23 billion last year.
Overall the biggest web merchants ranked in the Latin America 500 grew in line with the market. In 2013 the region’s 10 biggest web merchants—B2W Digital (Brazil); Nova Pontocom (Brazil); SACI Falabella (Chile); Wal-Mart Latin America (U.S.); Netshoes (Brazil); Máquina de Vendas (Brazil); Dell Inc. (U.S.); Amazon.com Inc (U.S.); Magazine Luiza (Brazil); and Saraiva e Siciliano (Brazil)—grew their combined web sales 25% to $9.18 billion.
Of the 10 biggest merchants ranked in the Latin America 500, only one company, Amazon.com, ranked among the fastest-growing companies. In fact, of the 10 quickest expanding web merchants, six retailers—Oxylane Group (France); Netflix (U.S.) adidas America (U.S.); Amazon (U.S.); Farfetch (United Kingdom) and AutoDesk Inc. (U.S.)—are from outside the region. The fastest-growing Latin American 500 merchant, France-based Oxylane Group (No. 248), which operates Decathlon.com.br, took advantage of the growing online market for outdoor gear and apparel in Latin America, to increase its web sales in 2013 by 457% to $5.3 million. The next fastest-growing merchant, Gallerist (No. 346), operator of Gallerist.com.br and a chain retailer of apparel and accessories, grew online sales 198% to $2.4 million.
Amazon stands out from such relative web start-ups in the fast-growing list. Today Latin America e-commerce represents only a small portion of Amazon’s international sales. Internet Retailer estimates that Amazon’s 2013 Latin America web sales of $475 million account for only 1.6% of Amazon’s total international sales of $29.93 billion. But Latin America revenue, most of which is generated in Brazil, was Amazon’s fastest-growing foreign market. With web sales in the region that grew 142% to $475 million in 2013, Amazon grew its web sales in Latin America 8.3 times faster than in Europe, 3.7 times faster than in China and seven times faster than in North America. Of course, those other markets are much larger with Amazon booking European web sales of $18.82 billion, China sales of $3 billion and North America sales of $67.85 billion.
Amazon is a relative newcomer to Brazil and Latin America, having launched its e-commerce site in Brazil in 2012 with products that included its Kindle electronic book readers and e-books that can be read on the Kindle. While Amazon isn’t talking publicly about its Brazilian expansion plans, the big e-retailer expects to add printed books in Portuguese to its Brazilian e-commerce site sometime this year and Brazilian sources said Amazon was projecting shipping 4,000 to 10,000 parcels a day containing physical books. Even if Amazon only sells 4,000 books a day at $10 each, that would add about $15 million a year to Amazon’s sales in Brazil.
Amazon isn’t saying much publicly about its Latin American strategy. But by relying on its expertise in product categories such as books, Amazon is learning how consumers in Brazil and Latin America shop online, and using the information to craft a more ambitious future growth strategy, says Scot Wingo, CEO of marketplace management services company ChannelAdvisor Corp. and a close Amazon observer. “Consumers in Latin America have an insatiable thirst for Western brands and products and Amazon knows that,” Wingo says. “Amazon has focused on Latin America in the last two years and will continue to invest in the region.”
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