This is the best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
The lockdown measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the Latin American region’s growth and adoption of e-commerce platforms. In Colombia, as in other parts of the world, many experienced the benefits of eCommerce for the first time. Colombia ranked fourth in 2020 as the largest e-commerce market in Latin America in online sales revenue, after Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina. The Colombian Chamber of Electronic Commerce (CCCE) of Colombia foresees growth of at least 16 percent in national sales by e-commerce during 2021. However, subsequent years’ growth rate might be impacted by the return to in-person activities.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Business to Commerce (UNCTAD B2C) eCommerce Index 2020 which ranks eCommerce levels based on internet use, secure servers, and credit card penetration, among other factors, ranked Colombia 68th out of 152 countries, behind countries like Chile and Brazil.
Although eCommerce in Colombia improved substantially during 2020, factors driving growth, particularly in the B2C segment, include greater accessibility to web services through smartphones and increased online services, especially banking and online payment services. Business to Business (B2B) eCommerce in Colombia is becoming more common but constrained by poor infrastructure, especially highways that connect to seaports, complicating supply chains.
Colombians’ preferred payment method in 2020 was credit card, followed by payment platforms like PayU and Cash. Pay on Delivery (POD) remains to be the dominant payment option.
Social media is widely used to promote eCommerce websites in Colombia and is a powerful tool of communication that some companies use to reach customers and position brands. YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are the most-used social media platforms in Colombia, according to the digital 2021 Colombia Report from We Are Social and Hootsuite.
Facebook is the most popular social network with 36 million users in Colombia, followed by YouTube with 29.9 million users. Instagram has been among the fastest-growing social networks with 16 million users, LinkedIn has nine million, and Snapchat six million. Digital marketing in Colombia has exploded and changed the traditional marketing mix. Social network tools such as Facebook Ads and Google AdWords are used in Colombia to launch simultaneous campaigns at affordable cost, reaching the people who meet the target audience profile.
Local companies use online retailing to sell products of third-party merchants on sites such as https://www.linio.com/. These channels allow them to reach a wider audience and create a stronger presence. Linio, Mercado Libre, and Dafiti, are the strongest players in e-commerce in the Colombian market. Most Colombians are currently shopping directly from websites. However, this trend is changing because younger generations are using social media like Instagram to buy online.
The most common challenges eCommerce companies face when entering the Colombian market are related to local regulations, local payment methods (credit card, bank account debit, cash on delivery, and digital payment systems), and poor internal transport networks that are underdeveloped and inadequate to meet demand, causing high costs and delays to supply chains. Limited access of Colombians to the financial system, low national connectivity coverage, low consumer confidence for digital transactions, high costs, delayed deliveries, among others in eCommerce logistics, also pose challenges.
In December 2020, the National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES) approved the National Policy for Electronic Commerce (Conpes No. 4012 de 2020). This strategy seeks to promote eCommerce in companies and the general public to increase social and economic value generation. This policy looks to promote strategies so that more companies and citizens adopt electronic commerce as a common and safe practice and generate improvements in the value chain to increase its efficiency and an institutional framework that promotes and supports innovation.
The main statutory provisions in Colombia for eCommerce are found in Law No. 527 of 1999 (the “eCommerce Law”), Decree No. 333 of 2014, and Decree No. 2364 of 2012. The eCommerce law regulates information generated, transmitted, received, or stored through electronic, optical, or other similar means, such as electronic data interchange (EDI), the internet, and email. The law also regulates other issues in connection with eCommerce.
In line with the precedent set by the original eCommerce Law, Articles 15 and 16 of Law No. 1676 from 2013 established that documents or agreements that constitute guarantees upon which mobile assets can be contained in data messages without losing validity or enforceability to the extent that there is evidence of mutual consent for the establishment of the guarantee on the assets. Similarly, Decree No. 805 of 2013 allows merchants to keep their business and corporate books in data message.
Decree No. 2364 of 2012 regulates all types of electronic signatures, whereas Decree No. 333 of 2014 specifically regulates digital signatures and certifying entities. The most significant contribution of these legal norms is to confirm the validity of digitally signed electronic documents, as long as they are verified by a certifying agency or a reliable and appropriate method to identify the signatory has been used.
On April 18, 2016, the new electronic invoicing model adopted by Colombia officially went into effect. This new model is defined by Decree 2242 of 2015, which seeks to expand the use of electronic invoices in Colombia, bringing with it the benefits expected by DIAN (Colombia’s National Tax and Customs Directorate) both for those who invoice electronically and for those who acquire goods and receive electronic documents, facilitating the conditions of issuance and interoperability among all participants.
In Colombia, intellectual property rights (IPR) laws do not provide adequate protection at international standards and need to be updated. The IPR regulatory regime for eCommerce in Colombia falls under the Copyright Law 23 of 1982; Decision 351 of 1991; Cartagena Agreement, decree 162 of 1996; and Trademark Rules decision 486 of the Cartagena Agreement.
For additional information, including market analysis, trade events, and the products and services that the U.S. Commercial Service can provide to help you succeed in the Colombian market, please contact:
U.S. Embassy Bogota
eCommerce Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service Bogotá +57 (313) 275-2764