E-commerce has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the events of 2020. The pandemic and resulting lockdowns caused a rapid adoption of digital commerce, with many consumers joining the fray for the first time. The changes in consumer behavior sent merchants scrambling to join the e-commerce revolution or increase their online presence.
On this episode of Fool Live that aired on Nov. 23, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner and Fool.com contributor Danny Vena were joined by Federico Sandler, MercadoLibre's (NASDAQ:MELI) head of investor relations, and discussed the accelerating adoption of e-commerce in Latin America and what it means for the market leader.
Danny Vena: E-commerce purchases as a part of all retail in Latin America at the end of last year were somewhere around 4% of the total. Do you have any insight into about where that might be now, and what does that mean for MercadoLibre?
Federico Sandler: Perfect. Great place to start. It varies by geography. I would say that at peak COVID, some countries reached even to the mid-teens. Right now, we believe it's closer to either the high-single digits, low-double digits. Like in countries like Brazil, which is one of our main markets. But we still see a significant increase from there before the pandemic, because although we've seen a pull-forward in a matter of months of growth that we expected in years, so we were at 4%, now we are maybe 9% or 10%.
I think this has been very positive for our scale. But I think when we look at both e-commerce penetration relative to the U.S., which is less than half, or relative to Asia, which is less than a third, we still think there's plenty of run room to continue to grow in penetration, even though we've grown substantially over the past few months.
Not only in terms of penetration, but also when you look at purchase frequency, we still significantly under-indexed the global peers. As we move into CPG, or consumer packaged goods, supermarkets, and groceries, we should be able to gain more share of wallet of consumers and also drive up purchase frequency.
The other interesting data point that I have at least for now is that as we see reopenings in physical retail in Latin America, although we've seen a deceleration of the business which was expected, we still continue to see a material portion of the buyers and consumption that moved online, sticking online. It's not like we had a regressions to Q1 pre-COVID, not at all. Still growth rates continue to be very robust, and I think it's a combination that we've been able to serve millions of our users very well as we've improved not only in selection, but perhaps most importantly around logistics, which I think is one of the biggest points over the last few quarters.