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Rocket Internet’s Linio tests the waters for mobile commerce in Latin America

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Rocket Internet-backed Linio released its first app today to capture Latin America’s nascent market for mobile shopping before the pool gets too crowded.

Ericsson published a report last week that said Latin America consumers are “ripe for mobile commerce.” Latin America’s Internet population grew faster than any other global region in the past year. Mobile phones are a significant driver of digital traffic, and online retail is also growing rapidly. Linio, aka the “Amazon of Latin America,” recently raised $26.5 million to increase its hold on the region’s e-commerce market. A mobile strategy is a key part of this plan, and CEO Andreas Mjelde said that an Android app will give the company a head start.

“The trend is from e-commerce to m-commerce,” he said to VentureBeat. “In Latin America we see a rapidly growing penetration of smartphones — we already have 107 mobile phones per 100 local people. We want to position ourselves as the trustworthy m-commerce pioneer in Latin America.”

Rocket Internet is a Berlin-based incubator that raises hundreds of millions of dollars for e-commerce companies in emerging markets. The Samwer brothers (its founders) are known for being “obsessively aggressive” and doing whatever it takes to gain dominance in a region. In July, Rocket Internet raised a whopping $500 million in fresh capital and its portfolio companies have attracted $837 million in funding this year. The firm has produced clone versions of businesses like Amazon and Zappos (among other) in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and Latin America.

It claims to have created more than a dozen leading e-commerce players, which have all started out on the Web. Now that smartphone penetration is increasing, mobile payments technology is improving, and consumers are growing more comfortable with mobile shopping, Linio and Rocket Internet want to capture mobile customers before anyone else does. Mjelde said a fifth of Linio’s customers already come from mobile devices. The new app will shoppers search and pay for items as well as get updates on new arrivals, deals, and vouchers.

“A lot of people now have a smartphone but still don’t have a regular internet connection,” he said. “This marks a step in Linio’s quest to make more products accessible to more people in Latin America. Our ambitions are to increase trust in m-commerce, to raise awareness for online shopping among Latin America’s population and to provide the safest and most convenient online shopping service in Latin America.”

While many startups in Silicon Valley choose to release iOS apps first, Android is the dominant operating system in emerging markets. A report today said that Android captured a record 80 percent share of all smartphones shipped worldwide in the second quarter of 2013. Mobile penetration is also increasing in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rocket’s other “Amazons” and “Zappos” released Android apps of their own soon.

Linio is based in Colombia and the Android app will be available in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. 

More information:

Linio, the so-called ‘Amazon of Latin America’, is a Rocket Internet-incubated e-commerce company. Linio offers a wide variety of products online in various categories, such as home electronics, technology, entertainment, home, app... read more »

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