Doing Business in Brazil’s Retail Sector in the Digital Age

July 21, 2016

Mindi Hertzog is a Commercial Officer and Heros Iarossi is a Commercial Clerk with the U.S. Commercial Service in São Paulo, Brazil.

Even as political turmoil, the Zika virus, and the Summer Olympics make headlines, Brazil still stands as one of the world’s largest economies – and one of the most important trading partners for the United States.

In our capacity with the U.S. Commercial Service, we recently attended the sixth annual Brazilian Retail Week, held June 27-30 in São Paulo. We had the honor of listening to and interacting with more than 150 corporate and industry leaders and experts about challenges, opportunities, and trends in the Brazilian market.

Crowded and colourful shopping street.

Shopping in Brazil

The biggest buzz at the event focused on the need for retailers to be aligned with younger consumers, a group labeled as “millennials.” These consumers display different purchasing patterns than more traditional consumers. Most critically, retailers must utilize digital technology in order to adapt to this new kind of customer, presenting both enormous challenges but also enormous opportunities. Retailers must be located where their customers are – with significant presence on the internet and on social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

According to one of the speakers, this “tap & pay” generation in Brazil does not like to stand in lines or carry bags, and many times, knows the product better than the seller. Others discussed trends including the startup economy, “omni-channels,” seamless shopping experiences, cross-border e-commerce, and the need for retailers to personalize the shopper experience.

It is clear that success in the Brazilian market requires companies to constantly innovate, especially in the digital space. A major theme throughout the two-day event was innovation in the U.S. as a model for Brazilian retailers. This provides a huge opportunity for U.S. companies in technological sectors – from marketing to cloud software to mobile apps– looking to do business in Brazil.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) helps U.S. companies find and capitalize on these opportunities. One important upcoming occasion is for businesses to join ITA at the U.S. Department of Commerce-certified LATAM Retail Show in São Paulo, Brazil, running August 23-25. This is one of the most high-profile events within the retail, franchising, mall, and e-commerce sectors in Latin America. There will be upwards of 280 exhibitors and 20,000 participants, including high-level executives and decision makers from major retailers. ITA will work to find partnerships and opportunities for American companies who take part in the delegation, including meetings with top industry professionals, social media exposure, and technical advice.  If you would like to join ITA at LATAM or learn how the U.S. Commercial Service assists businesses in Brazil, please contact the US Commercial Service in Brazil or your nearest Export Assistance Center.