July 30, 2014, 3:52 PM

eBay launches a shipping subscription program in Latin America

For a $49 annual fee, online shoppers in Colombia, Chile and Mexico can get free shipping for a year on purchases from eBay merchants in the U.S. It’s the latest in a series of moves by eBay to increase its sales in Latin America.

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Some Latin American consumers who crave Western brands sold on eBay can now get all they want delivered to their doorsteps for less than $50 a year in shipping fees. 

Under a new program launched by the marketplace, consumers in Chile, Mexico and Colombia pay $49 annually to cover shipping fees for all the goods they purchase from eBay sellers in the United States.

The Amazon Prime-like shipping program, called eBay 365, is just one in a string of recent moves eBay has made recently to ramp us business in Latin America, says Marco Ottonello, head of Latin America business operations at eBay. EBay launched the program first in Chile in April, followed by Colombia in May and Mexico in June, he says.

After three months of offering the program in Chile, eBay 365 had already produced twice the sales eBay had projected for the initial six months, Ottonello and Wendy Jones, vice president of geographic expansion and cross-border trade for eBay, tell Internet Retailer in an interview announcing the program.

“In every single case, the early adoptions of this exceeded our expectations,” Jones says.

While the program helps Latin America shoppers purchase hard-to-find or unique U.S. goods for a reasonable annual shipping fee, it also helps U.S. merchants tap the emerging e-commerce markets in those three countries, Ottonello and Jones say.

With eBay 365, U.S. eBay merchants don’t need to worry about international shipping fees because they ship items ordered through the program to a warehouse in the U.S. From there, depending on the final destination, a regional shipping provider takes care of getting it to the shopper. EBay uses Estafeta for deliveries to Mexico, eShopex for Chile and Aeropost for Colombia.

“The beauty of the program is that these guys are in the business of moving big freight,” Ottonello says. “They consolidate all these orders and move them in bulk with other shipments each day.” That process helps keep the shipping costs down. The program provides the shoppers with a tracking number and does not cover customs and duties fees, which customers pay. In Colombia, shoppers can opt to pick up packages at a network of local businesses eBay has contracted with.

The program represent’s eBay’s latest move to increase sales to Latin American shoppers. In May, eBay launched localized sites in Latin America enabling consumers in 18 countries throughout the region to shop eBay’s online and mobile marketplaces in Spanish and Portuguese using local currencies.

The company also in May launched a Portuguese version of its main mobile app; eBay already has a mobile app in Spanish. In September 2013, eBay launched a Portuguese-language fashion mobile app called eBay Moda, but this new site and mobile app enable consumers to access eBay’s entire inventory. EBay’s mobile app now comes in seven languages, including Russian.

At the end of 2013, more than two million Latin American shoppers purchased items off eBay.com in English and using U.S. dollars, the company says. With the new localization efforts, that number has grown 40% to 50% so far for 2014, Jones says. She says the number of items purchased from Mexico is up 30% in the first half of 2014 compared with a year earlier, and 25% of purchases on eBay by a Latin America shopper is made via a mobile device.

EBay also is testing enabling Brazilian shoppers to fund their PayPal accounts with Boleto Bancário, a service that invoices a consumer at checkout and enables a shopper to make a payment at her local bank, post office, ATM or lottery outlet. Currently, eBay shoppers in Latin America can only pay using PayPal, which eBay owns.  

Brazil is much more of a cash-based society than the U.S., and some experts estimate that around one-third of online purchases are paid for with Boleto in Brazil. Additionally, many shoppers only have local credit cards in the country, and Brazilian shoppers who wish to fund a PayPal account via credit card for now must use an international card, eBay says. With the Boleto option, consumers could shop on any web site, including eBay, and check out using PayPal without an international credit card, eBay says.

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