August 6, 2013, 8:28 AM

A coming of age

Web sales of merchants in the new Latin America 400 grew 19% in 2012.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

Eight years ago, as Brazil’s economy boomed and middle-class shoppers with good jobs and steady paychecks began shopping online in bigger numbers, finding new customers was the top priority for B2W Digital.  As Brazil’s biggest online retailer and an e-commerce pioneer, B2W realized early on that Brazil’s fast-growing economy, expanding Internet connectivity, and growing middle class would help to create a large and sustainable online retailing market.

Today, B2W and Latin American e-commerce are established and growing. B2W, No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Latin America 400, grew web sales 17% in 2012 to $2.44 billion, not counting ticket, travel and other non-retail trans­actions. In comparison the collective sales of all Latin America 400 merchants grew about 19% to $15.42 billion in 2012 from $13.00 billion in 2011.

In fact, Latin America is now one of the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce markets. Online retail sales in Brazil grew about 20% to an estimated $11.08 billion in 2012, according to eBit, a Brazilian e-commerce and information technol­ogy research firm. Meanwhile, Forrester Research estimates online retail sales in Mexico grew in 2012 about 21% to $1.7 billion and about 19% to $1.9 billion in Argentina.

As a region, Latin America’s online retail sales grew faster than in the U.S., where web sales in 2012 rose 16% to $225.54 billion according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. European e-retail sales also grew by 16% to $302.20 billion in 2012, says the Centre for Retail Research. Only in Asia did web sales grow faster than in Latin America last year, up about 32% to $256.50 billion, says Forrester Research

As an early player in Brazilian and Latin America online retailing, B2W has evolved its e-commerce strategy as the market developed.

In 1999, B2W launched Americanas.com and Submarino.com, a pair of general merchandise e-commerce sites. And in 2005, as Brazil’s economy grew at annual rate of about 5% and the government classified 52% of the population as middle class, B2W began a seri­ous push to diversify and grow e-commerce.  The e-retailer raised millions of dollars by going public on the Brazilian stock market and used the money to acquire a TV home shopping network, an online ticketing service and the Brazilian rights to video rental site Blockbuster.com.

To give Latin American shoppers more ways to pay online, B2W launched a finance unit featuring a co-branded MasterCard. “B2W has undergone strong growth, intense transformation and a significant learning curve to confront the many changes in the Brazilian digital retail market,” says B2W president and CEO Anna Christina Ramos Saicali in a recent investor relations message.

As online retailing inLatin American countries such as Argentina and Brazil continues to flourish, the biggest web retailers are rounding out their offerings as they seek to remain ahead of the e-commerce pack. More data and analysis on the region and its top web merchants are 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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