Peruvian supermarket's new Web site to tap into rich Peruvians U.S.

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LIMA--E-commerce is in its early infancy in Peru,but that hasn't stopped leading supermarket E. Wong fromlaunching a Web site. Wong is targeting wealthy Peruvianswho live in the U.S., mainly in Miami, Los Angeles and NewYork.

Peruvians living abroad contribute a staggering $1 billionto the Peruvian economy every year. "Most people send moneyhome for three things -- housing, food and clothing," saidMarco Suarez, head of E. Wong's Web site.

As the site develops, said Mr. Suarez, "people living inthe United States, for example, [can] click on the site andsend groceries directly to their families without worryingabout additional transfers. It would make things far easier."

Developing the local market is a longer-term project. Certainly, the supermarket is not expecting an initial surge insales. With the exception of a few companies, e-commerce ispractically unknown in Peru.

The main obstacle is the extremely low 1% of the populationwith access to a computer.

E-commerce was more developed in other countries in the regionbut even outside Peru is still relatively low. Percy Vier, IBMCorp.'s e-commerce representative in Peru, says Latin Americansin general spent roughly $160 million buying products over theInternet in 1998.

Still, Mr. Suarez was confident that, while the project cannotbe "measured in terms of sales," it offers new marketing oppor-tunities "through (its) innovation."

Before creating the Web site, the supermarket commissionedseveral focus groups to gauge consumer acceptance of orderingfor groceries over the Internet. "The people we choose wereselective customers who are familiar with purchasing productsover the Internet. The main concern doing it locally, they said,was security. Their suggestions helped us design a site that isvery user friendly," he said.

Mr. Suarez said the company plans to promote the Web site inleading local newspapers, but, more importantly, directly inthe stores where customers can see how the system works.

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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