Despite the fact that 28.5 million Colombians were online in 2015, E-commerce is less popular in Colombia than in neighbouring markets, like Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico.
This is due to a traditional mistrust of buying online. However, market share is growing alongside massive infrastructural investment by the Colombian government, improving highway networks, allowing for more efficient delivery services, and lowering organisational and logistic costs. While credit cards are widely used, Cod (cash on delivery) retains popularity, alongside digital payment platforms like PayU.
According to the Colombian Chamber of Electronic Commerce (CCCE), online buying grew by 65% in 2015, and was worth around 4% of GDP, up from 2.18% in 2013. E-commerce was expected to grow by 22% in 2017, with increased smartphone penetration and wi-fi coverage helping to stimulate continued growth in the sector. Travel and tourism have the strongest online foothold, with 34% of online purchases made in this sector.
Digital and social media marketing is a crucial aspect of any Colombian PR campaign looking to influence the spending decisions of the younger, professional and upmarket classes. With the vast majority of those who are online using social media (28 million of 28.5 million, with 25 million accessing networks on their smartphones), campaigns using Google AdWords or Facebook are relatively cheap and effective mechanisms to reach the masses. In Colombia, cost-per-click costs an average of 83% less than in the US. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are also efficient platforms for brand messaging and should be looked at as part of any lead generation campaigns.
Knowing your specific target audience is crucial, with increased competition for customer attention on screens that decrease in size Colombian PR and social media agencies need to ensure messages that demand attention amid the rest of the digital noise.
Facebook ensured market penetration in Colombia by introducing a free-of-charge web service internet.org in 2015. Users can use the global social network and other selected sites through the app, without incurring data charges. This is an example of an efficient strategy that was guaranteed to attract the attention and subsequent loyalty of large swathes of the low-income and rural population, who were not otherwise serviced by wifi infrastructure. In January 2017, Facebook had 28 million monthly users, with 89% accessing the network on their phone, and 57%, or 15.5 million, on Facebook every day, split 52/48 between female and male users, respectively.
Online customers in Colombia often buy from US, China, Brazil and Mexico. Popular electronic marketplaces include Mercado Libre, OLX, and Dafiti; while online shoppers also populate Falabella and Exito. E-customers tend to prefer to make their purchases through desktop (94%) rather than using smartphones (49%). There are more mobile phone subscriptions in Colombia than there are people, with 51.93 million connections registered in 2017, 78% of which are pre-paid services. Just over half (54%) of these connections have broadband connectivity.
Online traders also make use of seasonal holidays to run promotional campaigns, with initiatives like Cyberlunes (Cyber Monday) in which groups of online retailers offer special offers during specified time periods.