Last updated: 15 December 2014
The way Brazilians use the internet has changed significantly in recent years, both in the way the web is accessed and what content is commonly searched for. In this article we will point out the current status of internet usage in Brazil.
Brazilians have historically been known to access the web mostly outside of their homes, such as in workplaces or friend’s houses. Internet cafes, for example, became a symbol of internet access in Brazil, mostly because their market remained active in the country after it was no longer a trend in other parts of the world.
This scenario has shifted profoundly in recent years because of changes on two fronts. The first, prices of home and portable PC’s in Brazil has lowered incrementally, enabling emerging social classes to afford these devices at home. Not only that, government plans focused on digital inclusion such as Programa Nacional de Banda Larga reduced the cost of home broadband connections in all regions of the country, encouraging previously unconnected families to acquire their first internet subscription.
Data from 2013 by CGI, or the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, shows that 53% of households in urban regions of the country have computers and 48% of households in urban regions have internet connection. Rural regions of the country, where a significant portion of the population is located, display lower rates of 21% of households with personal computers and 15% of households with internet access.
The second, and perhaps the most important front of the advance of internet usage in Brazil, relates to the expansion of connected mobile devices in the country. Recent years have seen an extraordinary number of sales of mobile devices, mostly caused by the introduction of low cost smartphones and tablets and the further reduction of cost for these devices brought by government initiatives such as Lei do Bem.
Mobile Internet Access
In 2013, sales of smartphones in Brazil grew a jaw-dropping 123% with over 35 million of these devices sold to consumers, an increase that surpassed both the government and market expectations. With the rapid expansion of mobile networks to regions of the country and the substantial increase in usage of mobile networks, Brazilian internet users became predominantly mobile-connected and no longer restricted to the specific locations where they could access the web.
With the increase of both household and mobile connections, internet access in Brazil became much more widespread. Data from Anatel shows that as of August 2014 Brazil held 23 million fixed broadband connections and over 138 million mobile devices with access, which were divided predominantly WCDMA technologies, sold as 3G mobile internet plans.
A recent survey by market researcher E.Life suggests that over 90% of Brazilian internet users access the web from home and 60% of users consider it the primary location for browsing. In the same survey, 53% of users were connected via mobile devices and 50% accessed the internet from workplaces, with 23% considering it the primary location for browsing. Cyber cafes were only used by 6% of surveyed users.
Research by ComScore from Q1/2014 ranks Brazil third in a list of countries where users spend most time online combined. According to their data, the country’s users spent an average of close to 30 hours online per month, while global counts were averaged at 22.7 hours per month.
The question of what these users spent most time on was also a focus of the research, with social networks at a distant first place, followed by other activities and interests, such as portals, services and entertainment.
Brazilians are indeed powerfully drawn to social networks as statistics from this research suggest. The average time spent on these networks by Brazilian users was found to be almost double that of the worldwide average.
Time spent on Facebook alone was found to be more than all the time users from Mexico and Argentina spend online per month combined. Facebook is revealed to be a dominant force in the Brazilian market, with a 97,8% share of time spent on social networks followed by other networks such as Twitter or Tumblr.
Portals and Information
Other categories also received significant timeshare by the country’s users. Content portals, an historic preference of Brazilian online connected audience showed a 95% reach, accumulating close to half of the time spent on social networks.
The largest portals in Brazil offer a gateway to content in a variety of categories, many of which are considered the most interesting to the country’s audience, like news and entertainment. News and information pages alone reached close to 70% of the Brazilian online audience.
The services category, which includes internet banking, government-related activities and employment networks, received a similar share of time spent online. The recent expansion of internet access to all of the country’s social classes, combined with the development of online banking and government services, turned this category into one of the most sought after by the country’s audience and an important part of the Brazilian online lifestyle due to its added convenience.
Content websites searched the most by users were related to categories such as technology, gaming, sports and travelling. Automotive content websites displayed a surprisingly lower figure than the global average reach.
Youtube is the distant leader of online video consumption in Brazil, gathering more than 62 million viewers per month, followed by Facebook videos with 39 million unique viewers per month.
A fairly surprising inclusion on this list is the category of education, which is the fourth category with the highest overall reach in the country.
The popularity of this category is most likely related to the recent trend for long-distance education in the country, a sector that expanded significantly in recent years. Recent data shows that there are currently close to 6 million enrollments on long-distance courses in Brazil.
Most long-distance education courses in Brazil are transmitted via video feeds, which in some cases provide students with the capabilities to interact with teachers. Free online courses, or MOOC’s, have also begun to develop in the country.
One category not contemplated by the research but certainly relevant to the county’s audience is adult content. Data from May 2014 by Experian shows that these websites represent around 4,2% of the total page visits in the country. This might be an indication of reduction in interest to this type of content by the Brazilian audience, considering the category gathered a 5,2% share in January 2012.
Another interesting aspect of internet usage in Brazil refers to online gambling. According to data by Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, Brazil is the 23rd country in the world which spends the most on online gambling. Their research shows that BRL 1,8 billion was spent in foreign gambling portals in the year 2013, mostly directed to sport bets, poker and casino.
Fantasy sport websites have also begun to develop in the country and should become a big trend in the near future, considering online sports bets have recently been legalized in Brazil and other forms of gambling remain illegal.
Online Commerce Habits
Comscore research also points out relevant insights about online commerce in Brazil, a market with revenues close to BRL 28 million per year according to recent data.
Most Searched Products
The data shows that consumer electronics and department stores were the product categories most sought after by the country’s internet users, followed by outdoor sports equipment and apparel. Books, computer hardware and cosmetics were also searched frequently by a significant portion of online consumers.
Research by Brazilian e-commerce intelligence provider E-bit indicates that the most sales from online purchases in Brazil came from the categories of fashion/accessories and cosmetics/personal care.
Retail Platforms and Services
The top property for online shopping in Brazil was found to be Mercado Livre, the leader of classified products market. Price comparison was also found to be a popular trend for internet users, with Buscape, a very popular price comparison portal, occupying third place in the list of the largest online commerce properties.
Data from Fecomercio, or the São Paulo Commerce Federation, indicates that credit card is the most used payment method for online shoppers, with a rate of 57,4% for instalment purchases and 24,2% for instant purchases in a single sum. Boleto Bancário was found to be used by 13,9% of these users, while 2,5% used payment platforms and 2% paid purchases through wire transfers or debit cards.
Mobile Internet Usage
Research conducted by consulting company Nielsen during August 2014 revealed interesting results regarding internet usage on mobile devices in Brazil.
Social Networks and Apps
According to the survey, social networks and apps were used by most smartphone users in Brazil, an unsurprising result considering the popularity of social network usage in internet browsing and that of social network use.
The data indicates that 82% of mobile devices were used for social networks and 77% were used for email. Facebook and Whatsapp were the most common social networking apps, found in close to 75% and 65% of mobile devices respectively.
Brazilian smartphone users’ affinity towards social networks also led some of the country’s mobile operators, like Claro and Oi, to offer free access to Facebook and Twitter to subscribers of mobile data plans. Mobile operator TIM was the first to introduce a plan in which any data transferred using Whatsapp was offered free of charge.
Data regarding mobile gaming shows that some of the most popular games in foreign markets are also big in Brazil. Titles such as Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja are the most commonly found on mobile devices.
Most internet searches conducted on mobile devices, according to the report, were related to news, location, music and leisure. Price comparison and group purchases were also relevant themes to mobile internet users.
The research data indicates that mobile shopping is experiencing an incremental increase in the country. Data from E-bit shows that this category currently represents close to 5% of all e-commerce transactions in the country.
One use that is much more common for consumers with mobile devices in Brazil is price comparison. Around 60% of surveyed users claimed to have compared prices using mobile devices before making purchases.
An interesting fact revealed by the research refers to the consumption of music through mobile devices in Brazil. The data indicates that online music apps, sites or channels reached 40% of mobile device users, which represents a steady increase from previous periods, and that offline stored music was being consumed by a decreasing share of the same users, currently at 60%.
A survey by market researcher E.Life indicates that Brazilian mobile device users tend to not spend significantly with mobile apps. Of all users from the research, only close to 24% spent more than BRL 10 per month on apps and around 53% claimed to spend nothing at all. Free app downloads are certainly a trend in the country, according to data by mobile marketing company Jampp, with an average of 14.3 apps per device. Paid apps were found on average on only 2.5 per device.