--> Projections indicate that online consumer sales to Latin America will surge in the next few years.
November 2000 - E-commerce revenues in Latin America are expected to reach $82 billion in 2004, according to the Internet data tracking firm Forrester Research. While that's a significant increase from today's figures, Latin America will still lag behind regions such as North America, Asia-Pacific, and Western Europe, where online sales will amount to trillions of dollars, Forrester reports.
Some of the issues that continue to plague Latin American e-commerce companies include unreliable delivery of goods and limited payment options, says Adriana Kampfner, senior vice-president of sales and business development for StarMedia Network, the New York-based Internet company targeting Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking markets worldwide. But she says U.S.-based sites snagged 75 percent of online sales in Latin America last year – a great sign for U.S. Hispanics looking at the cyber-marketplace. Ms. Kampfner says that in general, U.S. e-tailers have more to offer on their sites than do local Web portals.
She also points out that most banks in Latin America have been slow in helping local online merchants facilitate direct and secure transactions through credit card payment structures. Brazil has been the only country in Latin America where banks have been very proactive in B2C commerce. Forrester also predicts that Brazil will lead Latin American e-commerce, with Brazil-based Internet trade likely to increase 165 percent between 2003 and 2004.
Despite some obstacles, Ms. Kampfner says, there's a fantastic opportunity for e-commerce companies in the Latin American market. Most important, Latin American consumers are ready for it. "Despite the fact that buying products online from the United States is a tedious, unpredictable, and sometimes frustrating process, consumers are still doing it," she says. "So when local e-commerce sites are able to complete the circle, they will have a significant advantage." She sees enormous opportunities for Latin American e-tailers to move products such as books and CDs.
At the same time, traditional retailers in Latin America have taken the lead in selling products online, which will help raise the bar for Latin American e-tailers, according to Ms. Kampfner. "People are still trying to fine-tune how they can get a bigger piece of that opportunity," she explains. "Last Christmas a lot of people were really disappointed with e-commerce. You found out which people really had good distribution and delivery systems and which ones didn't. In Latin America, people are understanding a lot better what can and can't work for the user."
Rudy Sandoval, CEO of e-Strategia Consulting Group, says that Latin American governments will play a vital role in the growth and survival of e-commerce companies in the region. E-Strategia is currently involved in a project in Nicaragua called e-Central, which will unite efforts by the government, universities, and private enterprise to strengthen the digital culture in the country and provide e-commerce consulting services and portals. "I think Latin America will have a bright future, and technology is going to help us get there," Mr. Sandoval concludes.
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