Latin American internet users are already known to be voracious consumers of social media and online video, and their ranks online are sharply rising. A new Forrester report says that online adoption in Brazil and Mexico will reach 57% and 48%, respectively by 2016, up from 47% and 38% currently.
Both governments have put their weight behind spurring internet adoption, and the projected upticks indicate that it's paying off. Mexico announced in January that it would auction licenses for use of state-owned fiber-optic lines to hasten high-speed internet adoption, while Brazil has had a national broadband plan in effect for years, partnering with telecom companies with the goal of bringing access to remote areas of the country.
The report surveyed 4,020 online adults in 22 major Brazilian and Mexican cities last November to gain insight into their media-consumption habits. It found that their self-reported time on the internet exceeded time spent watching TV by a factor of nearly four. (Brazilian respondents reported spending 23.8 hours on the web every week compared to 6.2 hours spent watching TV offline, while Mexican respondents reported 24.7 hours online compared to seven watching TV.)
Brazilians and Mexicans surveyed share an appetite for social media, with 89% of the Brazilian group reporting regular visits to social-networking sites, compared with 88% of Mexicans. The key difference is in the dedication to a single channel: 86% of the Mexican group reported visiting Facebook at least monthly, while Brazilians' loyalties are more diffuse. Eighty-one percent reported visiting Facebook at least monthly, but 63% still reported going to Google-owned social network Orkut.
In terms of online video consumption, Brazilians and Mexicans were also remarkably similar, with a respective 86% and 83% reporting watching online video on sites such as YouTube. Both groups also showed an inclination toward being content creators, too, though there was some disparity: 28% of Mexicans surveyed reported regularly uploading video they create to a public site, compared with 16% of Brazilians.
The relative levels of internet and TV consumption reported by the Latin American respondents resemble what's been measured more scientifically in the U.S. and Asia Pacific region, according to Roxana Strohmenger, the Forrester analyst who authored the report. And the fact that a growing share of the Latin American population is poised to come online in the next few years, presumably consuming online content at similar rates, has serious implications for marketers, particularly those looking to be ahead of the curve in mobile.
Where Brazilian and Mexican digital consumption most markedly diverges is in mobile, since high import taxes on smartphones and expensive data plans have historically made them cost-prohibitive in Brazil. (A 2009 report by Nokia Siemens said that the monthly total cost of ownership of a data-enabled mobile phone in Brazil was the highest in the world at $225. However, the market does seem to be shifting, and a study released last August by Grupo.Mobi in partnership with digital agency W/McCann said there were 19 million smartphones activated the Brazilian market, and half of those had been purchased in the past six months.)
"You're starting to see cloned versions of smartphones from Asia coming into the market to compensate for the exorbitant cost of a BlackBerry or an iPhone," said Ms. Strohmenger of the Brazilian market.
According to Forrester's research, just 40% of the online Brazilians surveyed are accessing the mobile web, compared with 55% of Mexicans. A deeper view of the data reveals a bigger gap: 41% of Mexicans surveyed were accessing the mobile web daily and spending 4.5 hours there every week, compared with 24% of the Brazilian group, which reported just 2.2 hours on the mobile web every week.
But with mobile adoption in both countries poised to rise, especially in Brazil, the report points to social gaming as a potential beneficiary. (The Brazilian market for social games is projected to reach $238 million in 2014, up from an estimated $136 million last year.) More brands are taking notice of the potential there, and the report notes that Coca-Cola Brasil recently partnered with Quepasa Games to execute product placements inside its popular "Wonderful City-Rio" game.