You’ve heard of its Carnival, of its many amazing beaches, and also more recently of the organized crime thriving in its favelas, and of its corruption problems. And that’s exactly what, as a foreign company, you should expect of Brazil: a country of contradictions. With a market of more than 200 million inhabitants, a booming and stable economy and extensive raw material resources, Brazil is an attractive market. However, foreign investors are also faced with high trade protections, complex regulatory and tax systems, and several administrative barriers.
Be that as it may, Brazil could still be your top choice for international investment. The country is one of the top ten world economic powers and has become the fourth international investor among emerging countries, making it the first in Latin America. Its labor force is both large and highly educated and its unique environmental heritage gives it an easy access to raw material.
Brazil also has a strong and globally integrated business foundation with a solid and modern banking system. Opportunities for business include areas like healthcare, marine, oil and gas, water, and technologies and smart cities. That is probably why 400 of the world 500 largest companies operate in Brazil.
In this Getting to Global guide, we will guide you through the many processes of reaching Brazilian’s consumers, successfully making sales on ecommerce channels, and getting your products to reach the desired consumers.
The Brazilian consumer market has been suffering the impacts of the recent economic downturn. While in the past, consumers showed greater loyalty to brands, this is no longer the case. Skyrocketing household debts are also to blame for this trend.
Brazilian consumers are shying away from luxury and high-end brands and turning to more affordable alternatives. Brazilians are increasingly shopping at discount stores for anything from groceries to apparel and have become more receptive than ever to aggressive pricing and special offers.
The rise of the smartphone in Brazil has lead to a dramatic increase in online sales, which is an opportunity for foreing businesses looking for an inexpensive way to foray into the Brazilian market.
Mobile Internet use has skyrocketed in Brazil in comparison to traditional fixed-line online connections. In 2016, there were 81.4 million mobile phone Internet users in Brazil, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Brazilian population according to Statista. By 2021, these figures are forecast to increase to 112.7 million and 51.8 percent. The leading mobile app in the country is WhatsApp with a 93 percent reach. Facebook ranks second with 79 percent, followed by YouTube and Instagram.
According to ABComm (Brazilian Association of Electronic Commerce), roughly 30 percent of consumer goods were bought in 2016 using mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Faced with continuing growth in e-Commerce, U.S. companies looking to sell in Brazil need to improve the mobile experience for customers. According to GSMA, Brazil is expected to end 2016 with 42 million 4G connections, an increase of 87 percent over last year.
In 2013, the Wall Street Journal bestowed Brazil with the title of “Social Media Capital of the Universe.” Social media is the ideal way for U.S. companies to market to Brazilian marketers. Brazilian users are among the world’s most engaged, spending an increasing amount of time on social media. Over 100 million Brazilians use some type of social media on a daily basis. Facebook and WhatsApp are the leading social networks in the country, followed by Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Twitter. For social media marketers targeting Brazil, this popularity opens up unprecedented opportunities. For U.S. companies targeting Brazil, it is important to understand the importance of social media. 
Brazil has five holidays where retail sales increase:
There are four other dates where retail sales also grow: Carnival (holiday), Children’s Day (commemorative date), Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. 
The Brazilian e-Commerce segment ended 2016 with US$13.4 billion (R$43b using a R$3.21 exchange rate) in earnings, an increase of 7.4 percent compared to 2015. Despite the current economic scenario in Brazil, projected growth is still positive at 12 percent, and is projected to reach US$15.1 billion (R$48.5b) in 2017. In Brazil, 48 million consumers made at least one virtual purchase in 2016, representing an increase of 22 percent compared to 2015.
With nearly 122 million Internet users as of 2016 according to the International Telecommunication Union, Brazil is the largest Internet market in Latin America and the fourth largest Internet market in the world in number of Internet users. According to Statista, the Internet penetration rate is forecast to grow to about 61 percent in 2021, up from about 56.8 percent in 2016. Monthly Internet usage in Brazil amounted to 25.7 hours per user in 2016; in comparison, the Latin American average is 18.6 hours.
The popularization of mobile broadband is another key growth factor. Cheaper smartphones have connected people from the lower to lower–middle classes (“C” and “D” socio-economic classes) to the Internet, thus allowing these consumers to order online. In 2016, 55 percent of the views on e-Commerce websites were done through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, representing an increase of over 30 percent compared from previous year. However, it is important to note that only 21.5 percent of the purchases were actually made on a mobile device.
The average e-Commerce purchase (average cart price) in Brazil for 2016 was US$126.3 (R$417), 8 percent higher than the previous year. This number is projected to reach US$137 (R$452) in 2017. It is also estimated that the number of purchases will increase 3.5 percent in 2017, and will reach a total of 110 million purchases made online. The increase in sales in virtual stores in the country is due to new consumption habits of the population. The migration of purchases from physical retail to electronic commerce is a factor that will continue to contribute to increased sales. We estimate that in 2017 e-Commerce sales will account for approximately 4.3 percent of retail sales in Brazil, compared to 3.8 percent in 2016.
The most profitable industry sectors for online shopping include electronic appliances, computers, electronics, fashion, cosmetics, household appliances, and home decoration. Fashion is a particularly interesting category, due to the widely held belief that Brazilians need to try on clothes before purchasing.
Geography plays a major role when evaluating the country’s market potential. Consumers in the southeast region of the country account for 72.1 percent of online purchases, which reflects Brazil’s concentration of wealth and education. The southern region accounts for 11.3 percent, northeast 9.3 percent, center 5.2 percent, and north 2.1 percent. U.S. firms should take this into account when assessing potential partnerships and working with consultants and online service providers. The majority of e-Commerce firms are based in Brazil’s business capital São Paulo.
The one factor enabling the development of the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector is the “long-tail” effect, which allows a wider product offering in niche areas compared to that found in physical storefronts. Surveys held in other countries, for example, indicate that online stores’ inventories are 6 to 23 times larger than those of physical stores. Retailers are taking advantage of U.S. selling techniques to increase purchases. For example, Brazilian stores (both physical and online) offer Black Friday discounts. Black Friday (2016) in Brazil, generated e-Commerce sales of US$575.7 million (R$1.9bi) which broke all previous sales records for a single day. In total, 1.64 million e-consumers made at least one purchase within 24 hours of Black Friday.
According to the latest Statisa report, e-Commerce turnover in Brazil amounted to US$ 13.45 bi (R$ 44.4 bi) in 2016, up from US$ 12.5 bi (R$ 41.3 bi) in 2015.
U.S. B2C firms seeking to reach the online Brazilian consumer from their U.S. bases should proceed with caution. It is cost prohibitive and unreliable for online shoppers to purchase and import products into the country from the United States due to high import taxes. Direct sales from the United States are subject to customs and duties regulations. Although Brazil has made substantial progress in reducing traditional border trade barriers (tariffs, import licensing, etc.), rates in many areas remain high and continue to favor locally produced products.
The most profitable industry sectors for online shopping include electronic appliances, computers, electronics, fashion, cosmetics, household appliances, and home decoration. Fashion is a particularly interesting category, due to the widely held belief that Brazilians need to try on clothes before purchasing. There are e-Commerce sites offering pharmacy and beauty products, cleaning supplies, safety equipment, services related to travel, among others. Travel and tourism services purchased digitally within Brazil play an important role in the growth of e-Commerce. E-market analysts estimate that travel represented close to a third of the country’s total e-Commerce sales in 2015.
Brazilians tend to purchase through marketplaces and group buying websites. Brazilians also like to take advantage of online discount websites and coupons. Many middle-class consumers are aware that online prices for consumer goods and customer service policies are better than in stores.
According to PagBrasil, 90 percent of Brazilians’ online purchases are made through Brazilian payment methods, although the country’s online payments market is restricted. In addition, domestic payment solutions are more cost effective since they save the 6.38 percent IOF tax, which is applied to all international transactions. Brazilian credit cards issued by local banks are limited to payments in Brazilian Reais (hey-EYES). U.S. companies selling in Brazil need to offer ways to pay using Brazilian credit cards and be able to convert currency. Another payment method in Brazil is the Boleto Bancário (payment slip), essentially a payment receipt issued through a bank. This is most often used for Brazilians who do not have a credit card and for B2B payments because it allows companies to avoid costly wire transfer fees, according to Allpago. One of the drawbacks to Boleto is that the payment confirmation is delayed and can take up to three business days. Companies like Paypal are growing in popularity but will still take some time to be mainstream.
Payment methods are complex and varied in nature. 62 percent of online consumers used credit cards, 28 percent used Paypal, while nine percent used payment slips (Boleto). Security continues to be a concern especially regarding online fraud.
International transactions can be challenging for residents and visitors alike. While visitors have relatively few problems using credit cards at hotels and tourist venues, the same is not true for online purchases. The majority of Brazilians do not carry international credit cards. Those wishing to pay for services such as airline or movie tickets online encounter barriers, as many Brazilian websites do not accommodate international credit cards. The most commonly accepted cards in Brazil are Visa and MasterCard with chip and PIN technology.
Research published by eBit shows that in 2016 Brazilian e-consumers spent US$2.4 billion in cross-border websites, which represents an increase of 17 percent compared to 2015 and 38 percent compared to 2014. It finds that 54 percent of Brazilian buyers purchased on international websites in 2016. The research also shows that despite the devaluation of the Brazilian currency compared to the dollar in 2016, each e-consumer made 3.7 purchases in cross-border sites, while in 2015 the rate was 3.8. This could be for several possible reasons including increases of international purchases by Brazilians outside the United States. On domestic sites, the average was 2.2 purchases. The average ticket price in cross-border sites decreased 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 and remained stabled in 2016.
Studies demonstrate that four out of 10 Brazilians completed a purchase on an international website over the last year and the figures continue to grow. Chinese websites are very popular among Brazilian shoppers. According to eBit research, the top five most used international websites in order are AliExpress (45 percent of consumers), Amazon.com (40 percent), eBay (26 percent), DealExtreme (12 percent) and Apple Store (10 percent).
The top 10 leading categories in 2016 of products purchased on international websites are: electronics (34 percent), software (25 percent), fashion and accessories (24 percent), mobile/telephones (18 percent), toys and games (17 percent), cosmetics and personal care (17 percent), automotive accessories (13 percent), books (13 percent), home furnishing and decoration (12 percent), and sports and leisure products (11 percent). Twenty percent of these purchases are delivered to hotels in the United States for pick-up or at friends/family houses in the United States for later postage to Brazil and approximately 80 percent are delivered directly to Brazil.
Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.
Brazil has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List since 2007. This designation reflects significant concerns with respect to high levels of counterfeiting and piracy in Brazil, including with respect to Internet piracy and online sales of counterfeit goods. It is important to be aware of this situation when buying or selling content online.
Businesses that locate content that infringes their rights online may be able to contact Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to attempt to resolve their concerns, in the event that the ISP hosts the infringing content. Businesses also can contact Brazilian enforcement authorities to explore potential criminal action. With respect to potential civil actions, businesses should be aware that generally ISPs will not be found civilly liable for damages resulting from content generated by third parties. Thus, companies should be aware that their civil actions against an ISP, based on online sales of counterfeit goods may not be successful. On the other hand, ISPs that host content infringing on copyrights or neighboring rights may be found civilly liable, if the ISP does not remove content in a timely matter after notice has been given by the rights holder. The legislation in this area is still developing in Brazil, so companies may wish to consult local counsel if they have any concerns.
Businesses seeking to market in Brazil also may wish to consider registering their trademark(s) as domain name(s) ending in “.br,” which is the country-code top-level domain (TDL) for Brazil. Registering trademarks in country-code TLDs may be helpful in establishing a local market presence. Defensively registering trademarks as domain names also helps ensure against cybersquatters, i.e., bad actors that register others’ trademarks as domain names in bad faith. Domain names typically can be registered for future use, thus preserving the company’s options for expansion. The .br TLD, unlike some country code TLDs (ccTLD), has an administrative dispute resolution policy for addressing cybersquatting. Court litigation also remains an option for instances of cybersquatting.