E-Commerce in Latin America: The $8 Billion Business

E-commerce has accelerated its growth since 2019 and has had a tremendous impact on the Latin American economy. PayU’s report looks at the evolution of key e-commerce trends and developments across the region.

Amidst lockdown measures, economic  disruption and technological transformation, e-commerce has been a source of significant resilience for businesses across the Latin American economy over the past year-and-a-half – particularly in the retail sector.


Drawing on our data from our payments platform, PayU’s ‘E-Commerce in Latin America: The USD 8 Billion Business’ report maps out the evolution of the regional e-commerce market, relevant industry trends driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, as well as the sales performance of the relevant economic sectors of key Latin American countries. The report places a particular focus on online shoppers’ behaviour and preferred payment methods per country, as indicated by our platform.


Key report findings

So far in 2021, we have seen an increase of 54% in transaction rate and a 32% increase in sales, as compared to activity on our platform in 2020. Based on exclusive PayU data, our report deep dives into the overall results we have captured so far in the year, highlighting over 300 million transactions processed by our company alone, adding up to an estimated $8 billion USD in sales.


Our data-driven analysis breaks down the reasoning behind these developments, highlighting how we can continue to expect further growth in the e-commerce industry in Latin America, both regionally but also at a local level.


Among the main insights of our report:


  • Through PayU, 15 million buyers carried out their transactions safely in 2019; due to the new pandemic conditions in 2020, 21 million shoppers made digital purchases, which indicates a growth of 40%;


  • The number of people who shop online and make their payments electronically continues to grow. In 2021, 27 million consumers have already made their payments through the PayU platform, representing a 29% increase from the previous year;


  • PayU went from processing 40.1 million transactions in 2019 to 200 million transactions in 2021, a staggering growth of 400%;


  • In 2021, PayU has seen a number of over 17 million shoppers making purchases from global merchants, an 83% growth versus 2020 and a 203% increase over 2019;


  • In terms of payment methods usage across the region, credit cards presented a loss in market share from 46% in 2019 to 39% in 2021. However, there has been a notable trend towards adopting debit cards or PSE payments in the last year;


  • The market share of credit cards in the last 3 years across the entire region was around 66%, and 97% of these purchases were made with payment in a single instalment;


  • Across key dynamic industry sectors, including fashion, streaming, entertainment, telecommunications, education and more, companies have expanded their footprint, generating innovation, significant e-commerce sales volumes and consumer appeal changes.
LatAM stats

Country-specific e-commerce takeaways

  • In Colombia, in terms of payment methods, the restrictions generated by the pandemic and the slowdown in credit cards usage allowed PSE to gain an 8% market share by 2020. By the end of 2021, e-commerce is projected to grow at a constant annual rate of 22% and reach almost USD 5.5 billion. Additionally, on a monthly average, the number of Colombian shoppers increased by 49% in 2020 (3.8 million), as compared to the previous year;


  • The Peruvian population has made a significant e-commerce progress in the last 5 years. In 2015, the country registered USD 8 million in sales and by the end of August 2021, over 27 million transactions were processed, representing USD 486 million. So far in 2021, over half (51%) of the Peruvian population has been financially active and the number of bank accounts has increased, notably impacting the e-commerce growth;


  • One of the biggest drivers to e-commerce growth in Mexico has been the transformation and merchants’ ability to re-invent their business and adapt to the new realities imposed by the pandemic. This flexibility is reflected in the annual sales growth, as follows: 50% in 2019, 41% (2020) and 19% (so far in 2021). In Mexico, our merchants expect significant growth opportunities, with almost USD 500 million in sales and approximately 60 million transactions;


  • Just like many other emerging markets, Argentina is subject to low credit card penetration and a substantially large unbanked population. This year, credit cards hold a 75% market share so far, reaching USD 280 million in processed transactions. This represents a 200% increase, as compared to January – August 2020;


  • Brazil has the largest and most advanced e-commerce market in Latin America, with almost USD 40 billion processed annually. PayU’s presence on the Brazilian market is representative, and in 2020 it recorded significant amounts of USD 190 million (a 71% growth compared to 2021), while in 2021, PayU has already processed USD 177 million (a 61% growth versus 2020);


  • PayU has constantly contributed to the sustained growth of e-commerce in Chile. Through our gateway, we have recorded sales growth of 127% (2019), 182% (2020) and 317% (January to August 2021). Online payments in Chile are dominated by credit cards, which represent over half of all online transactions.

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