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Recent updates to the Latin America edition of our Internet Statistics Compendium over the past few months have highlighted the exciting digital growth across the continent.

One really notable change to the data coming from the region is that it is frequently less focused on Brazil, a market which has understandably dominated headlines and reports during 2010.

That’s not to say that growth across any of the Brazilian digital sectors is slowing, but with the country now well-established on the global leader board for internet use, and boasting 40m web users and sitting comfortably between the UK at 38.6m and India at 41.6m, perhaps we’re more interested in whether any of its neighbours are likely to expand in a similar way.

So what should marketers be considering when looking to Latin America?

The “New Digital Middle Class” is fuelling the digital economy

In a report titled The Stampede, Joe Crump from Razorfish calls for a re-labelling of Latin America’s “Classe C,” instead opting for the “New Digital Middle Class” in an effort to make marketers ‘rethink their fundamental assumptions’ about who is connected in the region.

Alongside Brazil, the NDMC in Argentina and Mexico is growing fast and makes up the biggest portion of each population (60% and 61.7% respectively).

They are mostly aged between 12 and 35 years old, have an annual household income of less than $3,000, and are increasingly connected at home, at other people’s houses or in public spaces such as cyber cafes.

Device use is governed by cost and connectivity

Surprisingly, in a region where disposable incomes are small, cost of devices is not necessarily the biggest factor when Latin Americans are choosing to go online. 

According to Sandvine, Latin America is largely a fixed-replacement market. This means that subscribers use a mobile data connection as a substitute for a fixed broadband connection. 

Consequently, smaller devices, the majority being mobiles and laptops, are proving the best way to get online as they are efficient when finding a connection, as well as being cheaper to buy.

Mobile use is largely feature-phone orientated

There are now more mobile phones than there are people in Latin America. But the types of mobile devices most often used to access the internet can be seen to highlight that mobile is still in an early stage of growth compared to other markets.

Feature phones and net-phones are more affordable than top-of-the-range smartphones, at less risk of being stolen and are allowing owners to use the web via mobile. It is also typical for these models to be repaired when they break, as opposed to being replaced outright. 

While data charges are still pricey for many, mobile marketing is set to boom in 2011 with 83% of agencies in Brazil, 65% in Argentina and 59% in Mexico all planning to expand in the sector utilising multimedia, games, music and video content (Nielsen).

Looking beyond Brazil

Digital marketing content in Latin America needs to be created with smaller bandwidth mobile networks in mind. The range of laptop and palmtop screens on which content will be seen is growing too, with cheaper mobile models and newer tablets all needing to be considered.

There are also increasing opportunities beyond Brazil. Aside from the similarly well connected populations in Argentina and Mexico, the latest research published by fnbox looks to Chile as an emerging market for digital start-ups, where a whole plethora of everyday costs are half that of their Brazilian neighbours.

comScore, too, has been analysing additional LatAm markets with fresh research on Peru, where more than 4m people went online during April alone. 

These are fast maturing countries with populations which are increasingly dependent on digital media for education and entertainment. And with increased data, we are gaining more insight into how these markets are following Brazil and coming into their own.

Luke Richards

Published 4 July, 2011 by Luke Richards

Luke Richards is a freelance writer and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog

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