UPS Study Reveals Main Trends Into The Import And Export Behavior Of Small- And Medium-Sized Exporters And Importers In Latin America

US 10/09/18

Miami, FL

UPS (NYSE:UPS) today announced the results of its 2018 UPS Business Monitor™ Export Index Latin America (BMEI). The BMEI report provides insights and trends into the import and export behavior of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a segment that generates 60 percent of employment in Latin America1. The study identifies areas of improvement for companies to strengthen their business dealings, helping them understand the critical factors of cross-border trade transactions and provide key insights about SME’s decision-making criteria.

The 2018 BMEI, conducted in conjunction with the RGX Global Export Network, surveyed 2,082 small- and medium-sized exporters and importers in 12 Latin American countries including the United States from the industrial manufacturing, automotive and high-tech industries. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted to 16 leading government agency officials and industry leaders from private entities whose expertise lies in foreign trade and e-commerce. Their insights provided regional, country-specific, and industry background and contextual information.

“As Latin America experiences a greater export and import growth amongst SMEs, we want to equip this sector with a deeper understanding of cross-border transactions to help them design a strategy that bridges gaps between exporters and importers,” said Ingrid Ritter, marketing director for the Americas Region, UPS.

Main Study Insights

The study’s focus on importers (buyers) and exporters (sellers) reveals strategic insight into four areas of improvement for exporters and importers to strengthen their business dealings and drive transactional flows.

Logistics Flows

In the BMEI 2018, exporters were asked to assess their competitive advantages, leaving price and product quality aside. Exporters in the total sample named shipping and logistics services as their main competitive advantage with 26% choosing this response.

Furthermore, the study reveals a categorical effect of shipping and logistics services on online sales. In the case of exporters who said their online sales have increased, 41% cited shipping and logistics services offered to their clients as the main competitive advantage.

Online Flows

Seventy-three percent of surveyed importers in Latin America confirmed they are making online purchases, whereas only 56% of exporters in the region sell their products online. Seventy percent of all Latin American importers cited making purchases online via their suppliers’ websites.

Importers cited that their biggest obstacle making online transactions was insufficient or incomplete product information such as product description, photos and tech specs, available on the supplier’s website or third-party e-marketplaces.

The use of online channels for conducting business transactions still lags behind traditional channels, such as telephone, face to face and fax. However, the study revealed that importers demonstrated a greater tendency than exporters to adopt online channels for transactions.

Twenty-nine percent of exporters who reported an increase in online sales cited that buyers indicated they wanted to make their purchases online as the primary driver for the rise in sales.

Payment Flows

U.S.-based exporters indicated a higher acceptance of credit cards and PayPal (39%) than their counterparts in Latin America (10%), but penetration levels of digital payment methods are low even in the U.S.

The overall impact of online sales and purchases on transaction costs has been minimal with 57% of exporters and 50% of importers reporting no change. Furthermore, 28% of exporters and 34% of importers reported an increase in transaction costs, highlighting the fact that digital does not necessarily mean cheaper.

Suppliers Flows

Importing and exporting SMEs are fairly aligned in terms of identifying the main pain points in the supplier buyer relationship. The most critical aspects of cross-border transactions – price and product quality aside – coincide. Both parties cited shipping and logistics solutions, flexible payment terms, and after-sales support/services as the top three critical aspects of the supplier-buyer relationship.

Eighty- eight percent of importers said they would consider switching suppliers, highlighting the high likelihood among importers to change if they are offered better terms and conditions. This small group cited “good price/quality ratio of supplier’s product(s)” (44%) and “long-standing supplier/buyer relationship” (35%) as the two main reasons for why they would not switch suppliers.

In the BMEI 2018 study, the majority of exporters and importers indicated they experience delivery delays (63% and 79%, respectively). The leading cause of delivery delays cited by both parties was production delays.

Industry highlights

Regarding payment flows, automotive is the industry with the highest level of credit card acceptance for online transactions (23% vs. 18% for the total sample) and use of PayPal (18% vs. 9% for the total sample).

In online flows, the gap between exporters’ and importers’ use of online channels identified in the total sample persists in the breakdown by industry, with the biggest gap emerging in industrial manufacturing (18 percentage points) and the smallest gap in high-tech (10 percentage points).

For more information and press materials on the BMEI study, please visit


About 2018 UPS Business Monitor™ Export Index Latin America

The BMEI Study included interviews from 2,082 exporters and importers responsible for international purchases from the following industries: Industrial Manufacturing (33%), Automotive (33%), and High-Tech (33%). The study was conducted in eleven countries including: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and the United States. With the findings based on the responses from the 2,082 exporters and importers in hand, a panel of 16 experts was consulted. The respondents were asked a series of questions through the phone. The selected exporters and importers had to have performed at least five import or export transactions in the 12 months prior to the interview. The BMEI was commissioned by UPS and conducted by the RGX Global Export Network.

About UPS

UPS (NYSE: UPS), one of the world’s largest package delivery companies with 2019 revenue of $74 billion, provides a broad range of integrated logistics solutions for customers in more than 220 countries and territories. The company’s more than 500,000 employees embrace a strategy that is simply stated and powerfully executed: Customer First. People Led. Innovation Driven. UPS is committed to being a steward of the environment and positively contributing to the communities we serve around the world. UPS also takes a strong and unwavering stance in support of diversity, equity and inclusion. The company can be found on the Internet at, with more information at and


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Viridiana Atilano