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Great Digital Opportunity Awaits Brands

Consumers aspire to expand Internet presence

 

 When it comes to the Internet, Latin Americans can best be described as “Aspirers.”

 

That’s a TNS Digital Life term for people who are relatively new to the Internet but eager to become more involved. “Aspirers” is one of our six Digital Lifestyles that also include, for example, “Functionals,” people who use the Internet for practical reasons like email, and “Influencers” who spend much of the day online. In Latin America, about 38 percent of the population are “Aspirers” compared with 15 percent worldwide. These consumers access the

 

Internet via Internet cafés and/or at home. They are highly engaged but have not been as active as they would like to be, at least until now. Brands face an enormous opportunity in Latin America during the coming months and years as these highly engaged new consumers, the “Aspirers,” increase their Internet usage levels across all activities and platforms.

 

Internet penetration relatively low

 

Today, Latin America has relatively low Internet penetration, compared with more developed markets, with only a couple of countries approaching the 50 percent mark.

 

While many Internet trends are consistent with other developing markets, some behaviors parallel more developed markets, such as the US and Europe. In Latin America, as in other fast growing markets, the PC/laptop is still the dominant device for accessing the Internet, with mobile devices failing to make an impact. Mexico has the highest levels of mobile usage with 19 percent of the online population accessing the Internet by mobile in the past four weeks. At the same time, however, Mexico’s PC legacy matches that of the US, its northern neighbor with which it maintains close cultural and economic ties.

 

Several factors account for the relatively low level of internet access via mobile phones in Latin America. First, all markets in Latin America have suffered from infrastructure issues and poor coverage of 3G networks. Second, high costs of data plans and smartphone devices have impacted heavily on levels of usage, especially in markets such as Brazil. However, prices of device and data plans are falling, with excellent offers for data even on pre-pay plans. This suggests that Internet access via mobiles is due to explode in the near future

 

Social network growth potential

 

Traditionally Latin America has been a continent of the haves and have-nots. However, in recent years there have been huge strides to bridge this gap with a growing middle class and increasing consumer purchasing power. Consumers who were previously excluded from conversations in areas such as politics, education, brands and products, now have a voice, and this voice is being increasingly expressed through the digital arena.

 

It is therefore no surprise that social networking has had a huge impact in Latin America, especially considering the social nature of many Latins. Brazilians, for example, have an average of 481 friends on social networks, one of the highest numbers in the world, offering major opportunities for brands to share their message with large groups of consumers.

 

In Colombia, Internet users are spending up to eight hours weekly on social networks, significantly higher than the global average of 4.8 hours. Social networks also act as aggregators of many services including messaging, chat, sharing photos and videos and playing games. Therefore social networks offer an excellent first point of call for brands to communicate with the online consumer.

 

Great opportunity

Latin Americans also are keen on sharing videos, with both consumer and professionally created videos extremely popular. In fact, 72 percent of Brazilians view videos on YouTube at least once a week. Brands have the opportunity to create their own engaging videos to be shared by consumers as well as to encourage consumer generated content. If brand-made videos are sufficiently appealing, consumers will share them with a large percentage of the online population.

 

Social networks, along with brand websites, are also the most important digital touch points on the path to purchase in Latin America, with nearly half the population engaged at any stage. Not surprisingly, offline touch points, such as TV and word of mouth, still dominate media investment in Latin America. However, digital’s enormous potential points to the need for brands to create integrated offline/online marketing approaches.