August 7, 2013, 8:37 AM

North American e-retailers take on Latin America

U.S. web merchants in the 2013 Latin America 400 grew sales 20%.

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From high tariffs to less-than-reliable delivery services, Latin America provides U.S. web merchants with lots of challenges. But the U.S. e-retailers are making headway. In 2012 the collective web sales of the 39 U.S. web merchants ranked in Internet Retailer’s newly published 2013 Latin America 400 grew 19.7% to $2.25 billion.

That’s despite the travails of the biggest U.S. web merchant ranked in the 2013 Latin America 400—Dell Inc. (No. 5). The computer maker saw its Latin American web sales drop 8% in 2012 to around $570 million amid a global slump in sales of personal computers. The next biggest U.S.-based Latin America 400 merchant, Wal-Mart Latin America (No. 8), grew its 2012 sales in the region 150% to around $383 million.

North American players that face big barriers in the form of tariffs and complex country-specific regulations, and some are targeting attractive product categories and consumer demographics rather than launching e-commerce on a broad scale. One example is Tradercom USA Inc. (No. 251), which focuses on selling goods from higher-end U.S. brands to wealthy Latin American shoppers.

Another example is Amazon.com (No. 11), which generated 2012 Latin American web sales of about $320 million. Amazon opened a Brazilian e-commerce site in December 2012. But instead of launching the kind of massive general merchan­dise web store it operates in Europe and North America, Amazon’s Brazil e-commerce site is, for now, an online book store that features Kindle tablets, electronic book readers, and a library of 1.4 million print and digital books, including 13,000 Portuguese-language books and 50 Brazilian best sellers.

“Brazil represents an important market for Amazon.com, but there’s a big learning curve involved,” says Colin Sebastian, an analyst for private equity firm Robert W. Baird & Co. who covers Amazon.com. “Selling online in Brazil presents cer­tain logistical problems and requires a great degree of local knowledge of shoppers and their buying habits. For now an online book store is how Amazon is gathering intelligence and learning the market.”

More data and analysis on how U.S. web merchants are launching or expanding their e-commerce programs in markets such as Brazil is available in The 2013 Latin America 400. The research publication is available in three formats: print, digital and as part of the all-new and completely updated Top500Guide.com. Information on how to order is available here

 

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