Retail in Transition: Future E-Commerce Opportunities in Latin America

June 2021

The digital revolution has been rewiring retail for years. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this transition as e-commerce became the default setting for many homebound consumers. The crisis-inspired surge in e-commerce is leading to a permanent shift in retail, creating both new challenges as well as new opportunities for retailers and consumer brands alike. This report explores those opportunities and challenges in Latin America.

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This report comes in PPT.

Key findings

Remarkable growth over 2020, positively positions region for growth

Delayed investment in the e-commerce channel has meant that over the crisis the immature nature of the Latin American market has become more apparent. Despite these challenges, the fast adoption by consumers of the digital channel and important efforts by companies of all sizes have meant that 2020 closed with great dynamism with the region posting the fastest growth.

Marketplaces drive increased product offering

Marketplaces in the region are one of the main reasons behind the great influx of new products in the market. Traditional store-based retailers, such as Falabella, and pure players, such as Mercado Libre, have expanded the categories on offer, including everything from medical care products to supermarket-like products by finding new sellers and buyers.

Payment and logistics modernisation to further support e-commerce development

The explosion of e-commerce demand led to greater innovations relating to the final steps of the path to purchase, including payment methods. These efforts have helped consumers increase their interaction with retailers. Logistics, while having received increased investment during 2020, still needs to become a focus area, as consumers have become accustomed to low-price shipping and fast turnaround times.

Consumers looking to find great deals

Latin American consumers have been greatly affected by the economic downturn and as such have taken advantage of the increased promotional activity driven by brands online. As such, shoppers are interested in finding solutions online that allow for shopping that is not only cheaper, but also convenient, with fast delivery and varied payment methods.

Markets to look out for

While Brazil and Mexico stand as key markets to observe and invest in, interesting prospects are being noted in up-and-coming Chile, Colombia and Peru, all having experienced some of the greatest e-commerce growth in 2020. These countries have also expanded greatly on the infrastructure of e-com, meaning that prospects ahead continue to be positive.

About the report
Key findings
E-Commerce Emerges as the Default Setting
Latin America was the regional e-commerce growth leader in 2020
Growth driven by rapid expansion of online product offering
Case study: Jockey Plaza bridges gap between consumer and mall store
Category spotlight: Pet Care grows driven by limitations on movement
Case study: Laika expands across the region based on quick delivery
How Shopping Behaviours Continue to Evolve
E-commerce posts double-digit percentage point increase during crisis
Foodservice leads in mobile purchases growth
Consumer spotlight: Younger consumers continue to drive digital shift
Shopping behaviours also evolved in other ways as a result of the crisis
Thoughtful Thrifters seeking low prices and online shopping convenience
Case study: ACuenta brings lower prices to online grocery shoppers
Identifying E-Commerce Growth Opportunities
Identifying the markets most primed for sustained e-commerce growth
E-commerce growth possible through optimisation rather than expansion
Leading e-commerce markets still have the greatest unmet potential
Apparel and footwear highlights the realities of unmet sales in Chile
Case study: Vindu offers a personalised easy shopping experience
E-commerce market is expected to expand by USD1 trillion by 2025
Consumer electronics continues to lead region’s e-commerce growth
Case study: Linio opens store to support its marketplace experience
How to Win in Latin America
Three countries to watch in Latin America for e-commerce development
Key opportunities
Key challenges still to overcome
Key takeaways about e-commerce in Latin America
Recommendations for how to win in retail’s digital-first era
What to consider when evaluating your e-commerce strategy
Learn more about how to win in the digital-first era
About the survey methodologies
About the E-Commerce Readiness Model


Retail is the sale of new and used goods to consumers from a business for personal or household consumption from retail outlets, kiosks, market stalls, vending, direct selling and e-commerce. Retail is the aggregation of Retail Offline and Retail E-Commerce. Excludes specialist retailers of motor vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle parts. Also excludes fuel sales, foodservice sales, rental transactions, and wholesale sales (e.g. Cash and Carry). Sales value excluding or including VAT/Sales Tax. Retail also excludes the informal retail sector. Informal retailing is retail trade which is not declared to the tax authorities. Informal retailing encompasses (a) sales generated by unregistered and unlicensed retailers, i.e. retailers operating illegally, and (b) any proportion of sales generated by a registered and licensed retailer that is not declared to the tax authorities. Unregistered and unlicensed retailers operate predominantly (although not exclusively) as street hawkers or operate open market stalls, as these channels are harder for the authorities to monitor than permanent outlets. Activities in the illegal market, which is usually understood to refer to trade in illegal, counterfeit or stolen merchandise, are included within our definition of informal retailing. Activities in the “grey market”, which is usually understood to refer to trade in legal merchandise that is sold through unauthorized channels – for example cigarettes bought legally in another country, legally imported, but sold at lower prices than in authorized channels – will be included as informal retailing if no tax is paid on sale by the retailer. However if the retailer pays tax – for example on cigarettes bought legally in another country but sold at a lower price than standard – the sale is included within formal retail.

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