Why e-wallets are gaining popularity in Latin America

More than 400 million customers in LATAM and the Caribbean do not use formal financial services, such as a bank account. We look at how e-wallets are becoming increasingly popular with the unbanked (and even banked) as a way of purchasing online.

Introduction

Digital (or ‘e’) wallets have already seen runaway success in Asian countries like China and South Korea. Well known digital wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay have also been increasing their market share throughout Europe and the US respectively. Given e-wallet’s simplicity, ease of use, and integration into most e-commerce stores, there is little wonder why more and more of us are using them. However, it may be surprising to learn how popular they are becoming in Latin America. We look in detail at the reasons behind the growing LATAM e-wallet phenomenon and what international e-commerce merchants need to know to take advantage of this trend.

A perfect storm

There are two key factors leading to the popularity of e-wallets in Latin America. The first is the proportion of the population which do not have access to a bank account. The second, is the rate of mobile internet usage. It is important to realize that Latin America, unlike the US and EU, has a large percentage of the population which does not use financial services of any kind. Around 70% of customers in Latin America and the Caribbean do not have access to credit cards, debit cards, and/or bank accounts. Two of the largest countries by population, Brazil and Mexico, have unbanked populations of 30% and 63% respectively. Understandably, customers in these countries have needed to find alternative ways to pay for items online, and e-wallets offer such a convenient solution.

Secondly, LATAM shows high mobile internet penetration rates. As of 2018, LATAM is the fourth largest regional online market, behind (much larger) competitors like Asia, Europe and Africa.  However, in terms of mobile usage, this represents a huge customer base. By 2019 Latin America is projected to have 307.5 million people accessing the internet via their smartphone. This also translates to e-commerce purchases. According to eMarketer’s 2018 Latin America e-commerce report, 27.5% of retail e-commerce sales in LATAM were conducted through mobile devices.

So how popular are e-wallets really?

In light of the percentage of the population with no bank account, and the high rate of mobile phone usage, it is little wonder that e-wallets are becoming popular in Latin America. By how popular is popular? Well, according to the 2019 World Payments report, non-cash transactions accounted for USD 43.1 billion of sales in Latin America, in 2017, and is projected to grow by 6% (CAGR) through 2022. Current usage of mobile wallets also puts countries like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina on par with, or higher than, established markets like the US and Europe.

Source: Payments Cards & Mobile

A case study in mobile payments

In spite of the increasing popularity of e-wallet payments across the LATAM region, each country is still unique. As such, each also has their own preferred mobile wallet. Take, for example, Mexico and Brazil. Both show equal e-wallet usage of 3% of e-commerce sales (see above infographic). However, both markets use different e-wallet systems. In Brazil, PagSeguro is one of the most popular e-wallets, having shown a 107% YoY increase in volume of total payments in the second quarter of 2018. In Mexico, Amazon Pay and Oxxo Pay are more popular. Indeed, because of this popularity, many retail chains (both online and offline) are providing mobile wallets to their customers as a way of locking in loyalty and accessing more of the unbanked population. As an international merchant, it is important to research each LATAM country’s unique preferences to ensure you offer the most appropriate payment options. Partnering with a payment solutions provider can help you achieve this goal in the most efficient manner.

Conclusion

E-wallets are not a new phenomenon. However, in countries with little digital banking infrastructure, they represent an easy, integrated way to make online payments. Even for those without a bank account. Latin America represents one of these markets. A combination of high mobile penetration and openness to new payment methods makes them ideal mobile wallet users. High growth figures for e-wallets means that international e-commerce merchants should include them as part of their payment options. Partnering with a local expert, like BoaCompra, ensures you always offer the most popular payment methods for your target market.