The eCommerce market in Bolivia is still relatively small. User penetration is below average for the region; however, Bolivia falls under the “emerging,” not “delayed category,” and will continue to grow, according to Statista. Digital expenditures in Bolivia were at 2 percent of consumer spending ($522.2 million in total revenues) in 2021. The eCommerce market generated 53.6 percent share of this total digital revenue, followed by digital media (23.2%), eTravel (19.2%), and eServices (4.0%). eCommerce is expected to have a positive annual average growth of 17.6 percent by 2025. Most of the eCommerce shopping is for electronics and fashion items, with strong sales in the health and beauty, food, furniture, toys, and hobby sectors. Banking is giving impetus to eCommerce in Bolivia. As a result, there is great growth potential in this sector. As of January 2021, 9 percent of Bolivians make purchases and/or pay bills online, and 7.1 percent have a mobile money account. The total FinTech transaction value is forecasted to grow by 26.8 percent from 2020 to 2025. As of January 2021, around 11.6 percent of men and 6.4 percent of women in Bolivia aged 15 years and older have made online transactions.
Legal & Regulatory
The Bolivian Telecommunications Law includes articles on the offer of goods and services, validity of e-contracts, value determination, and controversies. Bolivia, however, has yet to improve regulation through rules or other controls on the operations of eCommerce. Bolivia’s internet connectivity also requires substantial improvement. The government has prioritized the extension of the telecommunications network to rural areas, as coverage is still unreliable in many locations. They have implemented a program of “coverage for all,” but the program has faced several setbacks. Although internet access in many areas is still limited due to a lack of bandwidth, the number of Bolivians with internet access has increased, mostly with smartphones. The Telecommunications Law and general Commercial Code serve as the legal framework for electronic commerce, but the lack of implementing regulations leaves many rules open to interpretation and eCommerce platforms with low intellectual property rights protections. The ADSIB (Agency for the Social Development of Information in Bolivia) is a public institution. ADSIB formulates and implements policies and actions aimed at reducing the digital gap in Bolivia through distribution of information and communication technology. It is also the administrator of the “.BO” domain. The Agency for Electronic Government Information and Communications Technology (AGETIC) is an autonomous institution controlled by the Ministry of the Presidency. It coordinates implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and government policies to advance technology inclusion and use. AGETIC has prioritized the promotion of eCommerce in Bolivia.
Because of the predominantly informal nature of the economy, most Bolivians do not have access to credit. Cash transactions are common. Small businesses use Facebook to sell their products. There is no major eCommerce platform in Bolivia. Although there is a push by consumers, businesses, and corporations to allow charging with PayPal, the government has not yet authorized PayPal’s entry into the Bolivian market.
From 2014 to 2019, the number of internet connections in Bolivia and the number of households with internet access at home more than doubled. Web traffic share in 2021 was over 57 percent via desktop, and close to 52 percent by mobile device. As of November 2021, around 95 percent of the mobile operating systems were Android. Mobile connectivity index scores show relevant content and services, mobile network infrastructure, and affordability of devices and services is lagging consumer readiness. In 2020, Google by far was the leading website based on views per day, followed by Amazon, YouTube, and Facebook. Chrome was the most popular internet browser in 2021, with 82 percent of the market share. Google is the most popular search engine, holding 98 percent of the market share as of June 2021.
There is a generational gap between younger Bolivians more exposed to the internet, and an older population that does not commonly use the internet: they may have a mobile phone and use it to make calls, but they are not typically browsing or making online purchases. Bolivian culture enjoys direct communication, and the older generation may still prefer going to the bank, store, and travel agency for their purchases. The younger generation is more likely to make transactions online. The population of Bolivia is currently around 12 million but is projected to grow over 22% to 14.7 million by 2040. In the next two decades, there will be a larger population of Bolivians using the internet, making online transactions in demand and more commonplace.
Intellectual Property Rights
SENAPI oversees registration of intellectual property. Regulatory quality in Bolivia is low, ranking 183 out of 209 countries in 2019. U.S. businesses should seek appropriate legal counsel to protect intellectual property rights in Bolivia, including on eCommerce platforms. Please refer to the section Protecting Intellectual Property below for more information.
Digital Marketing & Social Media
There are no major eCommerce-focused trade shows or annual events. Many young Bolivians use the Internet to access Facebook. Facebook held 75 percent of the social media market share in 2021. Twitter was the second-most popular with 8 percent, followed by Pinterest, and YouTube. Instagram held less than 2 percent of the market share. The number of Facebook users is forecasted to steadily grow through 2025, similarly with Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram.