Consumers in Brazil, Mexico Use Internet Differently

Forrester Survey Finds Opportunities for Mobile Marketing to Cellphone Addicts

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A digital divide still persists in Latin America, where 56% of metropolitan Brazilians and Mexicans are online. Understanding their differences in behavior and level of engagement is critical for marketers seeking an effective media allocation mix for Latin America.

Here are some highlights from a new Forrester Latin American Technographics survey of more than 6,000 urban consumers in the 12 largest metropolitan regions in Brazil and 10 in Mexico:

Broadband adoption is emerging but at different rates. While 45% of Brazilians -- 50 million metropolitan adults -- connect to the internet via broadband, Mexicans are adopting at a much slower rate of only 28%, or 16 million metropolitan consumers.

Similar to what we've seen in other countries, the low adoption numbers are not influenced by consumers using at-home dial-up instead of broadband. Rather, these consumers do not have home computer access in the first place.

Degree of online engagement is not similar -- Brazilians are more active and social. Although online Brazilians and Mexicans are on par with the fundamentals like emailing, online Brazilians demonstrate higher levels of online engagement overall. The biggest difference is in social media. Brazilians are fanatical about social media: 63% of them regularly use social networking sites, adding up to 40 million metropolitan consumers. This is in stark contrast to Mexico, where only 22% of online metropolitan Mexicans -- 7 million people -- use social networking sites.

Many offline consumers find the internet mysterious. In markets where the internet is relatively new, such as Brazil and Mexico, many consumers are still trying to understand what it will add to their lives. This is reflected in the fact that 66% of offline Mexicans and 44% of offline Brazilians say they aren't online because they just don't know enough about the internet. Furthermore, about one-third of offline consumers in both countries say that they will never go online.

I've traveled extensively to Latin America over the last month, and one of the things most striking about technology adoption in the region is the ubiquity of cellphones: 75% of all metro consumers in the two countries own a mobile phone.

That represents a huge opportunity for companies to connect with their target audience, irrespective of whether they are online or not, and brands with a presence in Latin America need to incorporate cellphones into their media allocation mix. But Latin Americans' addiction to cellphones doesn't necessarily translate into adoption of the mobile internet. Our data shows that only 5% of cellphone owners use the mobile web at least once a month or more, and only 8% of them own a smartphone. Most of consumers' mobile activities focus on simple communication tools such as text or voice. And while young consumers use their phones for entertainment such as playing games or music, they too are not connected to the mobile web yet. For marketers, the challenge lies in finding the right applications and tools that are a fit for this market.

Online Brazilians and Mexicans are just starting to familiarize themselves with the web. While online consumers fully embrace certain activities like email and search, a large majority of other online activities that are common in other markets have yet to reach mass consumption. In addition, a large proportion of metropolitan consumers are still not connected. Understanding how the internet will develop over the next five years will be crucial for companies interested in these markets.

Roxana Strohmenger is a senior survey manager at Forrester Research. More Latin American data from Forrester can be found on their website.
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