In this ‘websites around the world’ series, I’m sharing fascinating and useful insights into the kaleidescope of the world’s digital landscape, including how and why it’s evolved differently for different audiences.

After exploring China and Indonesia, we now do an intercontinental swing to Latin America, with a focus on Brazil.

Brazil is the world’s seventh largest and Latin America’s largest economy. It’s also one of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), a term coined by Goldman Sachs to reflect speculation that by 2050 these economies would be the world’s most dominant.

O Boticário, based in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state – the world’s largest perfumery and cosmetics franchiser and a Brazil leader in online retail purchasing.

O Boticário, based in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state – the world’s largest perfumery and cosmetics franchiser and a Brazil leader in online retail purchasing.

In their recent profile of Brazil’s ‘e-pysche’, ‘Grasping trends in an elusive market‘ McKinsey and Co observed that Brazil’s shifting digital landscape and demographics can seem inpenetrably complex. Brazil is a sophisticated, global digital giant, but variability and lag in key areas — from digital marketing through connectivity to online purchasing behaviours — may at first glance seem inconsistent or baffling. So here, you get to survey the scene a little more clearly.

By numbers, Brazil ranks #5 globally for internet usage. That also makes Brazil Latin America’s e-powerhouse, with Brazilians accounting for 40 percent of Latin America’s Internet user population. Currently, 107.8 million or 53% of Brazil’s 202.8-million population use the internet. This is expected to reach around 60.3% of Brazil’s population in 2018.

 Internet penetration across the Americas

Internet penetration across the Americas

Internet in Brazil, in common with its Latin American neighbours and elsewhere globally, has allowed mass communication access and, more slowly, the growth of ecommerce
. Telecommunications technology has allowed Brazilians to cut across the social and economic divides of this highly financially and socially stratified nation.The growth of mobile technology especially has allowed brasileiros to circumvent poor infrastructure, bureaucracy and corruption.

Today, Brazil’s largest internet user groups are young on average, with 30 percent aged 25 to 34 and 18 percent aged 18 to 24. They’re also less affluent than the first generation — indeed, across Brazil, 60 percent of residences (57 percent in urban areas) lack internet access. This demographic, which uses social networking overwhelmingly as the primary function uses the internet very differently from Brazil’s first generation of internet users and e-purchasers. This cohort averaged over-30s from Brazil’s middle-upper and upper economic classes who tended to be regular e-mail users but light social network users

belo horizonte

Website of Belo Horizonte-based architect Silvia Carvalho

While it’s a cultural stereotype that Brazilians are fun-loving and social, this is undeniably borne out in their internet behaviours, especially when it comes to their epic online socialising. Facebook’s Vice President in Latin America, Alexandre Hohagen, mused in a Wall St Journal interview how Brazilians’ enormous penchant for chatting about sports, television programs and news translates brilliantly to social media:

‘Brazilians are inherently social people. [It’s] common for someone to start talking to you in the elevator or in a restaurant just to start a conversation…I think our culture…really makes people much more open to include and connect to friends.’

Fabio Saad, Brazil’s online media director for international ad agency DDB, has likened the thunderous weekly e-chat about soccer matches and telenovelas to having ‘two Super Bowls per week in Brazil’.

rio facebook man

Rio Facebook man! Yes, it’s true – Brazilians ARE social media.

Social media dominates as the top usage for internet (36 percent of Brazilians’ online time), followed by gaming, information search, product search and finally product purchase.

Brazilians’ social media, information and product search habits provide essential clues about product or service recognition and buy-in. Brazil’s 65 million Facebook users ranks it at #3 globally. Brazil is YouTube’s biggest market outside the United States by number of unique visitors, and globally, one of its top five markets by revenue. Meanwhile, Twitter Inc. rates Brazil as one of its top-five active user groups globally. These are highly significant platforms from which, by following the trends of Brazilian followers and harnessing their impressive e-socialising habits, you can develop strategies for your business brand or institution for penetrating your intended Brazilian audience or marketplace.

submarino viagens

Submarino Viagens — Brazil’s 2nd most visited travel site.

The travel and leisure industries are where Brazilian users feel perhaps most comfortable following the process right through, from information finding, sharing and, increasingly, to making online reservations and purchases.

Online pollsterStatista, profiling Brazilians on which websites they used to make e-purchases, found that in 2014 airline websites were the most visited for e-purchasing, at 15 percent.

2014 ecommerce breakdown (excluding travel and travel-related purchases) from Brazilian e-commerce specialist E-bit

2014 ecommerce breakdown (excluding travel and travel-related purchases) from Brazilian e-commerce specialist E-bit

Brazil ranks number 10 globally for retail e-commerce sales. Superficially it’s an impressive figure. But that’s only 5 percent of Brazil’s retail sales overall. Like the rest of Latin America generally, Brazil lags globally for product purchase.

So why aren’t Brazilians shopping more on the Internet? McKinsey & Company’s McKinsey iConsumer identified three key cultural barriers: a) an ingrained ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ preference to see, touch and feel something; b), trust — for instance, distrust of the intangible in e-commerce and more so after a bad early experience; and c) impatience with waiting.

Brazilians’ impatience with waiting and what they see as preventable delay evolved in part from troublesome, contrary elements of Brazil’s legal systems, bureacracy and corruption. Brazilians often employ what they call ‘jeitinho brasileiro‘ (the ‘Brazilian way‘) to find alternative ways to reach what they want when they want it.Jeitinho brasileiro behaviours include inventive queue-hopping and dislike of the waiting for delivery…especially when it gets held up.

In Brazil, with its broadly collectivist cultures, ‘in-group’ behaviours and longstanding patterns of corruption and impunity, users place a high premium on trustworthiness. Together with brand buy-in, trust takes time to develop. Many Brazilian users therefore continue to opt for the ‘best of both worlds’: digital techology to compare products and get recommendations from friends; and in-person store browsing and purchasing.

The recent steep rise of smartphone purchasing — a significant phenomenon in itself, with more affordable Android devices increasingly available — is driving the rise in internet engagement and product purchase. Smartphone ownership is still dominated by more affluent Brazilians, at somewhat over half of Brazil’s upper and upper middle economic classes. But smartphone ownership across Brazil’s middle and lower middle classes is about one third and rising fast.

social digital mobile brazil

In 2014, Brazil ranked #13 globally for time spent using a smartphone, with Brazilian smartphone users spending an average 146 minutes daily glued to their devices, Lorenzo Linder, Chief Marketing Director at TIM (a major Brazilian telco) notes, ‘Our smartphone sales used to account for 25 percent of our total sales; this figure is now 60 percent. It’s cheaper to have Internet on your mobile than to pay to use the Web at a cyber café.’

So e-commerce in Brazil is steadily, if slowly, maturing. Online outlets are expanding. They’re also pushing into Brazil’s huge, semi-tapped middle-class market, which represents over 60 percent of internet users but only a third of all online purchasers. Websites are starting to reflect business’ growing commitment to improving the web browsing ‘experience’, securing consumer trust, building online sales and improving delivery. Pedro Guasti, E-bit executive director, observes that

(S)tores are improving the browsing and purchasing experience on their websites, and…consumers are trusting more and enjoying this convenience with several advantages offered by online purchase.
Brazilians smartphone socialising on social media

Brazilians smartphone socialising on social media

Brazilian online shoppers are also embracing international e-commerce, with a 2015 poll finding that four in ten completed a purchase on an international shopping site. Chinese e-retail websites are especially popular.

In this accelerating environment, Brazil’s digital advertising market is picking up serious pace, after starting from a very small base. Although Brazilian marketers spend on average just 11 percent of their advertising budgets on digital ads, compared with about 20 percent worldwide, the rate of digital ad spending grew by about 30 percent in 2014, the second-fastest growth rate globally.

Technology companies are looking to Brazil as a massive source of both users and revenue. Brazil is expected to add up to around USD76 billion of expected global expenditure in the next couple of years on additional advertisements, surpassing the global heavylifters India, Russia and Indonesia.

Mobile advertising in Brazil ( video and banner ‘display’ ads and search ads, viewed through mobile phones and tablets). is expected to reach amost USD 400 million by 2016, placing Brazil as one of the fast-growing BRIC countries in this category.


Website image from Kroton Educacional, Brazil’s largest private education company, specialising in online learning and educational resources

Brazilian website design, as with the rest of Latin America, didn’t initially join the global pioneers of this medium. But now it’s more than caught up, bringing Brazil’s rich artistic and design pedigree to produce visually stunning and highly engaging commercial website design for Brazilian and international markets, some of which we’ve showcased in this post. Brazil follows global website design and content trends, with a western visual sensibility that also draws from its own strong visual design and broader cultural heritage for an unmistakeably Brazilian look that resonates with local audiences.

O rappa
Website of O Rappa, Rio-based reggae-rock band

As with other ‘high-power distance’ cultures, visuals and information presented in Brazilian websites generally aim to guide where users should go and what they should know. Popular Brazilian websites encourage group buy-in and loyalty, convey trustworthiness and reinforce their users’ trust through their experience of browsing, sharing information, booking and purchasing.

In digital advertising, most Brazilian campaigns are now integrating mobile and social media elements. So while Flash still has a dominating presence — frustrating for downloading content and smartphone usage — it’s becoming less prominent and HTML5 is fast catching up. Android is Brazil’s most-used operating system, at 70 percent of the user population.

Beach Park

Website page for Beach Park water park and resort, on Porto das Dunas beach in Fortaleza — one of Brazil’s top tourist attractions and Latin America’s largest water park.

Brazilian websites aim for selective, strong imagery, cultural and brand recognition and ‘clean’, uncluttered message content to attract, inform and guide users, as well as achieve group buy-in and user trust when it comes to ‘surrendering’ important personal information. While Brazilian websites don’t use excessive iconography, hyperlinking and direction-giving to support and direct users as do websites across the Asian region, they employs culturally recognisable, appealing colour schemes, incorporating (with striking exceptions) sunny blues, greens, yellows, watermelon pinks, soft purples and pastel oranges…together with thematic motifs and appealing brand mascots.

Chat with your in-country contacts about their preferred websites and how they use the internet, to give you a more nuanced picture of the varied Brazilian website landscape. Also get on social media to find out what your Brazilian counterparts, their colleagues and friends recommend!

If you’re doing business across Latin America, there are plenty of other useful websites, like Alexa, Statista, eMarketer, which produce regular updates and great visuals on market data, consumer data, revenues and trends.

Brazil’s complex and exciting digital market is well worth exploring. A little digging will reward your efforts and provide deeply valuable cultural and business insights from a digital lens.

We’d love to hear your comments and questions! To find out how InterMondo can support your communications requirements in an international environment, click here.