EBay Makes Latin America Push with Local Languages, Currencies
By Anthony Harrup
May 23, 2014, 8:37 AM ET
E-commerce giant eBay is betting on Latin America’s fast-growing Internet use and adoption of online shopping by adding sites in local languages and currencies to boost its presence in the region.
EBay last week launched sites in Spanish for 18 Latin American countries, and Portuguese for Brazil. Before that, eBay users in the region were directed to a site in English, priced in dollars.
Just over two million of eBay’s 145 million active users world-wide are in Latin America, dwarfed by the region’s leading e-commerce site MercadoLibre, which reported nearly 104 million registered users and $1.8 billion of goods sold in the first quarter. EBay declined to disclose its sales in the region.
Research among eBay’s Latin American users showed they wanted to shop in their own language with local currency and more relevant promotions, said Fernando Trueba, eBay Marketplaces’ head of marketing for Latin America.
“We’re taking this market really seriously,” Trueba said. “It’s one of the top priorities for the company. It’s where we’re seeing growth.”
Aside from the local language and currency conversions, eBay is counting on its selection of 250 million items for the region to attract shoppers, as well as its global shipping program to handle deliveries and customs for sellers that opt in.
Trueba said eBay’s next challenge is to bring local sellers on board.
Latin America has lagged other regions in business-to-consumer e-commerce, with estimated online sales of $48.1 billion in 2013, less than 4% of the global total of $1.25 trillion, according to research firm eMarketer.
But e-commerce in the region is expanding rapidly, eMarketer says, with growth rates that trail only a handful of Asian countries. Latin American sales are expected to grow 20% this year, after climbing 28% last year and 38% in 2012, the research firm says.
The region is also embracing mobile shopping, which accounts for a quarter of purchases on eBay in Spanish-speaking Latin America, and about 13% of purchases on MercadoLibre. “Mobile is a huge part of the future, now we see more and more people going mobile,” said Trueba.
EBay’s stepped up efforts in the region could help MercadoLibre and others in a highly competitive space by encouraging more people to shop online, MercadoLibre’s chief financial officer, Pedro Arnt, said Wednesday at a telecom conference.
“This is far from a zero sum game,” he said. With e-commerce accounting for just 3% to 4% of total retail in the region, gains are to be made from offline commerce, and the more players convincing consumers to buy goods online, the quicker that shift will occur, he added.
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