Earlier this month the CEO of Walmart Mexico and Central America Scot Rank announced that the e-commerce market in Mexico is still very small in comparison to other markets, but it is growing very fast. He then said that they will replicate the Brazilian e-commerce business model in an attempt to boost sales.

Their 200 e-commerce experts are already receiving information from their counterparts on Brazil, in an initiative set to a capex of MXN1.9 billion (R$340 million) this fiscal year. This is according to Mexican news portal El Financiero.

Mintel’s E-commerce Brazil 2014 report discussed in detail the nature of Walmart’s e-commerce platform in the South American country. The report revealed that the company aptly branded their e-commerce platform as “virtual shopping center” in an attempt to remind buyers of the diverse nature of their product and service portfolio. Shopping centers have been a very popular shopping and leisure option among Brazilians for decades because they combine shopping variety, leisure, and security in one place.

The virtual shopping center endeavors to reconcile diversity with convenience, as consumers can shop from the comfort of their desk. They are able to navigate with their virtual shopping cart through a variety of “corridors” and product categories, and can compare prices between different suppliers. Our research also showed that Walmart plans to offer 1,000,000 products online by the end of 2014, the largest online portfolio of its type in Brazil, illustrating the importance of breadth of portfolio to retailers.

The company leases space for small competitors to sell their goods in their virtual shopping centers. Such suppliers enjoy a certain degree of autonomy: they can sell the products of their choice, implement their own pricing strategy, and use Walmart customer service platforms for payment, customer support, and delivery. This “shopping center” contains the supplier’s entire product and service portfolio. It is a big step in the implementation of the omni-channel as envisioned by the company globally.

The company also has a strong presence on Facebook. The Walmart Brasil community has nearly 1.4 million members, plus a “Retail and Consumer Merchandise community with almost 500,000 users. They include a real-time customer support, a careers and even a recipe application. Buyers at Walmart can register for online shopping using Facebook. This enables the company to recommend products based on the end user’s profile and online behavior. It supplants loyalty programs, which are normally established mostly for customer profiling purposes.

Facebook is currently testing a “buy” button and exploring new retails possibilities in Brazil. The American company is in a strong position to leverage this because it already has such a strong presence on the social networking website in Brazil.

Mintel’s Food and Drink Retailing Brazil 2014 report showed that Walmart is the third largest food retailer in Brazil, with revenues of R$25.9 billion and a market share of 7.4% (2012). Their e-commerce offering, however, is larger than the top two players, Pão de Açúcar and Carrefour, and could eventually catapult the company to second place or even the top spot.

The Brazilian e-commerce market is diverse, innovative and growing very fast, at a rate of more than approximately 20% a year. Success stories such as Walmart could provide a blueprint not just for developing markets such as Mexico, but possibly for more mature ones such as Spain and Italy.

Victor Fraga is Senior Analyst for Mintel’s Brazil report series. He has more than 13 years of experience in industries including technology, healthcare and the public sector. His previous roles have included companies such as Frost & Sullivan, and Guardian News & Media.

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