Mexico: an e-commerce & payments primer
As an e-commerce market, Mexico certainly presents challenges but also tremendous opportunities. A young, increasingly affluent and under-served middle class presents a high demand for consumer goods. And as infrastructure improves, more and more of those consumers are coming online. The provisions of the USMCA Agreement should help merchants and payment providers based in any of the three member states cut costs and grow their cross-border business.
Mexicans use cards to pay for 46% of online purchases, cash to pay for 6%, bank transfers to pay for a further 7%, wallets to pay for 33% and various other means to pay for the remaining 8% .
Most online card payments (67%) are made with localized credit cards issued by the global brands Visa and Mastercard but restricted to domestic use. Those localized versions of international credit card schemes are characteristic for the LatAm countries Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Those local cards are limited in use, as they are restricted to local purchases and cannot be used cross-border. Even if those cards are issued by international brands and may seem like standard credit cards, they can only be used in the country in which they are issued and can only be used to make payments in that country’s currency. “Normal” credit cards issued by Visa and Mastercard and American Express all together count for 31% of all online card payments – Visa for 19%, and Mastercard for 12% .
Mexico is one of the three members of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, signed by its respective heads of state in November 2018 and finally ratified by all three in March 2020 . This makes Mexico highly dependent on trade with the US, to which Mexico sends over 77% of all its exports .
In 2022, both the US and Canada have initiated trade disputes with Mexico over what they regard as the Mexican government’s nationalist energy policies, accusing the country of favouring its own state-run oil and renewables companies , . Whether this will have significant repercussions for Mexican exports or the broader Mexican economy remains to be seen.
The e-commerce market
Mexican e-commerce is growing at the impressive rate of almost 17% a year . The total value of Mexican online sales in 2021 was US$43.3 billion, which is forecast to rise to US$69.6 billion by 2026 . This makes Mexico one of the largest e-commerce markets in Latin America. Nevertheless, online sales are just 13% of total Mexican retail sales . By any standard, there remains tremendous potential for growth in Mexican e-commerce.
46% of all Mexican e-commerce transactions are completed on a mobile device . A study by JPMorgan predicts that the value of mobile commerce in Mexico will grow by 108% between 2019 and 2023 . As in other markets, the pandemic has pushed Mexicans to e-commerce. And having tried online shopping and got used to it, many are not going back.
In the first quarter of 2022, Latin American e-commerce giant MercadoLibre saw a 53% rise in the value of its sales . In part, this reflects the scale and ambition of the company’s investments in e-commerce infrastructure over the past few years. But it’s also a testament to the energy and potential for growth in the region’s online-shopping market.
Things e-commerce firms need to know about Mexico
The Canadian, Mexican and US governments have now all ratified the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced NAFTA . It’s difficult to tell what the impact of USMCA will be in the long-term. Over 70% of Mexican exports go to the US , so clearly any change to the two countries’ trade regime will have a significant impact on the Mexican economy.
For e-commerce merchants, the USMCA includes a prohibition on local-storage requirements for data . As long as Mexican regulators can gain access to the data if they need it, merchants and their service providers can store that data in any of the three USMCA countries. Less data-centre duplication should mean lower costs. Shipments with a value of less than US$2,500 will require less paperwork in future and shipments to and from Mexico of less than US$117 will no longer be subject to custom duties .
42% of Mexicans have a bank account and 12% have a credit card . The country has had a financial inclusion plan, stressing the need to develop low-transactional bank-accounts for the very poor and to create digital financial services accessible even in remote regions, since at least 2010 .
78% of Mexicans have an Internet connection and 70% have a smartphone . The Mexican government is currently working with providers to boost both fibre and mobile broadband throughout the country. By 2024, it aims to have installed 25,000km of fibre and covered at least 50% of the country with mobile broadband stations .
- Original PPRO research