By JD Medina (@bloodless)
Eight of the Zemoga peeps and I had the pleasure of attending eCommerce Day Latin America, held on December 1st in Bogotá. The event also takes place in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Sao Pablo, Lima and Mexico City. The focus of this edition was accelerating eCommerce sales, based on the expertise of recognized speakers with years of experience in creating and growing eCommerce business in Spain, Argentina and Chile.
The first session was run by Guillermo Rospigliosi (Executive Director of Emerging Channels for Visa), who presented some very interesting data, contrasting eCommerce in Latin America with eCommerce in Colombia. Some of the highlights:
eCommerce breakdown in LatAm vs. Colombia
Rospigliosi came to the conclusion that Colombia is in need of more eCommerce offerings due to the high index of foreign retail purchases and the high use of C2C portals; he also pointed that this must be propelled by the increase of broadband penetration in households. The Technology & Communications minister of Colombia has a plan of multiplying the amount of broadband connections by four by 2014, an announcement that Marti Manent (President for the Spanish Association of eCommerce) celebrated as he stated that once the Spanish government sponsored the growth of broadband connections, eCommerce stores and sales sky-rocketed.
Rospigliosi also had a very interesting study on eReadiness in LatAm – an index that measures the ability to use information technologies to develop the economy of a country. In general, eReadiness in Latam is on the rise but Colombia is lagging very far behind:
The main gaps and causes for the low Colombian index are the low power and impact of the eCommerce offer. Only 4.4% of the population have broadband connections (closely related to the 4.04% who buy online) and only 2 out of 10 Colombians have credit cards.
Another very interesting study was based on the concept of multi-channel commerce, a practice that leverages the battle between online and offline sales. Andrés Silva (CEO of the Chilean HappySale.com) explained his experience with 3 eComm portals he has led in Chile and introduced the concept of RoPo: Research Online, Purchase Offline. Some interesting numbers:
- 6 out of 10 people do RoPo because they want to see and touch the product.
- 46% of people who didn’t buy online wanted to have the product the same day.
- For every product sold online, the offline store sells 3.45 products.
Silva states that online and offline are not enemies but instead must complement each other to offer flexibility to the customer and give him the freedom to buy wherever he feels comfortable. He also has his own “Decalogue,” 10 best practices that every eComm store shouldn’t miss, here are some:
- Store Locator and working hours
- Online catalogs and look-books
- Kiosks that extend the store stock and offer home delivery
In the afternoon, there were some interesting workshops about the social eCommerce phenomenon. Grouponʼs Colombia Manager talked about the success of their business model, relying mainly on Facebook and Twitter as propagation mediums. In just 4 months they have gathered 600,000 active users who constantly share coupon opportunities with their friends. Facebookʼs LatAm partner .FOX showed the success of their new engagement ads, an interactive ad platform that generated more than 1 million fans for Starbucks in their AIDS awareness campaign. Also the comScore Data Mine showed interesting numbers in stores using Twitter to promote sales and coupons; 33% of Twitter users in Brazil and Chile follow their favorite brands.
The last workshop touched a very interesting point about the role of the mobile platform in eCommerce. The Director of Alternative Channels of Colombiaʼs largest retailer, Exito, said that this year 9,000 users tried to buy through their smart phones. Colombiaʼs mobile penetration is on par with Latin America at 90%. But the real eye-opener was the use of an unknown mobile technology for me called USSD. This protocol is available in all GSM cell phones and serves as a communication medium between the phones and a dedicated server. In countries such as Kenya & India, where the smart phone penetration is minimal, they use USSD to pay utility bills and transfer funds like Paypal does but with a very low minimal transfer limit. This rather unknown platform is a perfect gateway for the large amount of Colombians that either don’t have a credit card (83%) or don’t have a bank account at all (67%) to make e-payments.
The speakers and events of the day made a lot of good points about not only eCommerce in Colombia, but in Latin America as a whole. As our region continues to make strides into this world, it will be interesting to see where some of the technologies and ideas we learned about at eCommerce Day LatAm will take us. Will we catch up using these technologies or will we innovate and bring even more ideas into the conversation?