Guatemala - Country Commercial Guide

Describes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and covers prominent B2B websites.​​​​​​​

Last published date: 2021-08-10

E-commerce is growing rapidly in the Guatemalan market. COVID-19 pandemic and the severe home quarantines decreed by the government has driven online shopping and a growth in the preference of for electronic payment, with a high expectation that it will be established beyond the end of the crisis, according to an investigation carried out by the Chamber of Commerce of Guatemala (CCG). 

Guatemala is using  e-commerce not only within the private sector, but also within some government institutions that have ), launched web pages offering interactive services, some examples:

  • Purchasing and Tender systems: Sistema de Informacion de Contraciones y Adquisiciones del Estado
  • Property Information System:  Registro General de la Propiedad
  • Tax system: Superintendencia de Administracion Tributaria
  • Health Systems: Ministerio de Salud Publica Y Asistencia Social

Culturally, Guatemalans prefer face to face engagements, but new generations are embracing technology and moving away from the traditional retail model.  Business people, associations, and the Government acknowledge that e-commerce is a very important electronic tool in doing business and during the current pandemic many stores have started to offer eCommerce. Guatemalans during the lockdowns pefered to eCommerce for grocery shopping and others than risking going phisycally to a store.

Guatemala is currently in the early stages of e-commerce development, and most purchases are conducted internationally. Many significant Guatemalan businesses have postal boxes in Miami. According to the Guatemalan Association of E-Commerce, in 2020 Guatemalan internet purchases reached $1.3 million from foriegn and local suppliers.   Arrangements for the shipping of merchandise to Guatemala are made by ordering companies, which lower transportation fees.

However, e-commerce in Guatemala has grown in spite of considerable challenges such as the large amount of unbanked citizens, relatively low percentage of credit card holders, and difficulties with both cross-border transactions.

According to #Digital 2021 report for Guatemala:

Domestic e-commerce (B2C)

There is a trend of purchasing products from the United States, considering the ease of conducting business, and the well-established delivery companies found in Guatemala.  Guatemalan consumers also buy from the European and Mexican eMarkets.

Some of the most popular products Guatemala purchase overseas are electronics, clothing, car spare parts, household items, gifts, decorations, books, online courses.

According to experts in e-commerce, the greatest challenges of buying from the U.S are:

Some U.S. vendors only accept credit cards with a U.S. billing address

Guatemalan Customs Authorities will open and verify all packages from the U.S.  This practice is subject to the Customs agent’s discretionary rulings, and therefore some products may end up paying more import duties than they should.

Despite the attractiveness and growth of e-commerce, Guatemalan consumers and small business, can still be reluctant to purchase goods and services online due to lack of trust in the system.

Another factor that concerns Guatemalans is the lack of information and certainty of privacy protections, personal identification information, and insecurity of online transactions.

As a result, some courier and delivery companies offer to pay customer’s purchases with their company’s credit card for a small fee (1-3% of the total purchase).

Larger companies have IT offices within their organizations to manage commercial services on their webpages.  Others subcontract from local firms that specialize in developing and managing e-commerce sites.  These companies will provide software to the hiring firm such as site-building tools and templates, database features and methodologies for best practices, plus transaction software.

Product supply and procurement exchanges represent another aspect of online commerce. These sites serve a range of industries and often focus on a niche market. A company purchasing agent can purchase supplies from vendors, request proposals and even make bids for purchases at specific prices. These B2B websites enable the exchange of product supplies and procurement.