Engaging Latin America in FMCG E-commerce
Latin America is still relatively nascent in terms of E-commerce.
As all eyes focus on the Singles’ Day and Black Friday shopping events, the region that is still relatively nascent in terms of e-commerce is Latin America. At first glance it might be assumed that this is due to low internet penetration across the region, but this is not the case. The region as a whole, with 55.9% of the population online succeeds Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Only 0.2% of the region’s FMCG market is currently online, this is forecast to grow to 3% by 2025, which will be worth $4.5bn. To put this into perspective the global market will grow from 4% to 9% in the same period, a$150bn business.
So why is FMCG e-commerce across the region so small and what needs to change in order for it to grow in line with predictions?
In a region that has been dealing with challenging economic times, price and awareness of promotions are critical to winning shoppers. A factor that seems to hold back the development of e-commerce as a channel for FMCG sales is the perception that it is more expensive than shopping in the store. Aside from the price of the goods, the cost of delivery puts up the price of using this channel and acts as a deterrent. In contrast, the cash and carry model is something that is growing fast in LatAm and competes with online.
In research conducted earlier this year across the region, we found that one of the biggest issues preventing shoppers back from doing their grocery shopping online was a lack of trust in e-commerce. This is relevant in two areas, the first is trust in payment methods and not wishing to share credit card details online, the second area was the issue of trust in the freshness of produce.
Across the generations this lack of trust varies from a simple preference to see a product before making a purchase amongst 76% of Millennials, through to over half of Generation X finding that sharing their information online is just too much of a risk. The Boomers generally don’t have access or know how to use the internet.
Overall, the Latin American people just prefer the conventional shopping experience - they like to see, touch and smell products as well as be advised by people that they trust.
The future development of online shopping across the region might be guided by Argentina, which is an anomaly in the region. In Argentina 8% of people currently do their grocery shopping online, which is significantly more than the other countries in the region. Older people and families who want the convenience of items being delivered to their door are the key groups who currently purchase their groceries online. To continue to grow though, more younger shoppers will need to start using the channel in the future.
Despite the current resistance to online shopping, there are those who believe that e-commerce in general and FMCG specifically will thrive across the region. Wal-Mart has a significant presence in Brazil with three new fulfilment centres recently built and Amazon launched a Mexican site last year, its first major investment Latin America so far.
Our research suggests that this is faith that’s well placed as there are those in the region who could be converted. In Mexico for example, 58% enjoy the process of shopping from home whereas in Colombia over half mentioned that e-commerce enabled them to avoid the long queues at the checkout.
Four-fifths of shoppers in Brazil see that e-commerce allows them to shop at any time and over half of Peruvians saw a value in accessing exclusive online promotions. Exclusive online promotions were the key factor with 48% citing it as a reason that they or other shoppers would buy more online.
The next most popular reasons related to delivery in terms of speed and cost. By being able to decrease the time between order and receipt, retailers could reduce the possible trust issues and also retain the satisfaction that is felt from making an immediate purchase.
It seems that there are three stages to go through before more people in Latin America will buy their everyday essentials online. The first is being online in the first place, although many are connected particularly in the bigger economies of Mexico and Brazil, there are more who could be.
The second stage is helping the shopper to understand how online shopping works and engaging them in the concept – perhaps as the nature of work changes and the need for convenience increases this might be a natural progression. The final stage is winning the shopper’s trust in the quality of products and the safety of paying online shopping so that it becomes preferred to instore.
E-commerce is growing more quickly in travel, fashion and electronics which are categories where promotions are a key part of the landscape and payment by instalment is common. Perhaps there is something that FMCG brands and retailers can learn from these categories to make the channel more attractive to shoppers in the future.
By Stéphane Roger, Cecilia Alva and Virginia Garavaglia.