Uruguay has one of the highest internet penetration rates of any Latin American country: as of January 2019, 88% of Uruguayans were active internet users. According to Hootsuite, Uruguay also boasts 2.7 million active social media users (78% of the population), putting it on par with more developed countries. Unsurprisingly then, e-commerce in Uruguay is also on the rise, having experienced a 25% growth in 2017.
However, the prevalence of cash payments has often made it a more challenging prospect for international e-commerce merchants, unfamiliar with the country’s cash-based payment methods. But this picture is slowly changing. Uruguay’s neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, are familiar with the use of cards to make online payments. This is in turn influencing the Uruguayan e-commerce market. Credit card usage is on the rise, and more and more Uruguayans are turning to the internet to make purchases. We look at everything international merchants need to know about the evolving Uruguayan market.
What is changing in Uruguayan e-commerce?
Uruguay, relative to its Latin American neighbors, is an affluent nation. It has a GDP which puts it on par with mid-ranking European states. As such, it has sufficient disposable income to make it an attractive prospect for international e-commerce merchants. In recent years, more and more Uruguayans have been heading online to make purchases. A recent study shows that 38% of the population has made a web-based purchase* and 36% of Uruguayans, under 34 years old, buy online at least once per month.
This growth has been, in a small part, due to the cost or shortage of items available in local stores. Household electronics (39%) are the most popular goods to buy online, followed by clothing and shoes (17%), computing and mobile phones (12%), homeware (9%) and loans and credits (6%)*. In many cases, some of these items were available at more competitive prices through international online retailers. As such, it is a market still relatively untapped.
Understanding card usage in Uruguay
A 2016 Latin American e-commerce report stated that international credit cards made up 42% of online sales with local credit cards and debit cards making up 28% and 3% respectively. As such, credit cards amounted to 70% of the country’s total e-commerce spend. As such, they represent an important and growing payment method for the online retailer.
However, 56% of Uruguayans that haven’t bought online in the past 12 months, state as motives not having a credit card and/or feeling unsafe providing personal financial information online. Hence, working in Uruguay requires merchants to offer both local and international card payment options, alongside cash payment methods. Working with a payment aggregator like BoaCompra ensures that your customers are able to pay in the method best suited to them.
Installments are a popular option in Uruguay
The second facet of card payments which international merchants must understand is the importance of installments in Uruguay. Installments are a popular phenomenon in Latin America. They give consumers the chance to split the payment of their purchases, allowing them to pay the full amount over a broader time window. Indeed, in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, 40-50% of customers opt to pay in installments. In Uruguay, consumers are used to paying without interest across all sectors. When dealing with interest-free installments, the cost of the interest is absorbed by the merchant and/or issuer, depending on the situation.
It is important to note that the credit card issuing banks set the rules regarding the conditions for paying with installments, such as the amount of installments and the applicable interest rates. As each country has its own rules about what payment terms can be offered to the end user, e-commerce merchants interested in offering installment plans in Uruguay, and the wider LATAM markets, must partner with payment aggregators that offer local card options.
First mover advantage
E-commerce in Uruguay is a growing market. With high internet penetration rates, an affluent population and the increasing use of credit cards, it is a market of increasing importance. The country itself shows an interest in international online retailers, with 90% of cross-border sales being placed in the US and China. By offering localized payment options and taking advantage of Uruguayans openness to international e-commerce websites, new retailers could see growth in this market.
* Source: Monitor de E-Commerce UES. Study excludes food and urban transport items.