E-Commerce in Trinidad and Tobago

Presently, there are no barriers to entry into the world of e-commerce in Trinidad and Tobago. While there are some issues that need attention, there are no real deterrents to businesses, regardless of size, desirous of taking their business to the next level. The country already has the building blocks to build a thriving digital economy.

The Government has led the way with TTBizLink, which is a secure, user-friendly online interface that gives businesses and individuals 24/7 access to applications for government’s major trade and business services. TTBizLink has reduced the bureaucracy and long waiting times associated with obtaining Government services.

On the policy side, the Ministry of Trade and Industry is currently implementing the National E-commerce Strategy. The Government is aware that its role is to ensure that businesses and consumers have the necessary tools and resources to derive tangible benefits from e-commerce, as well as the legal and regulatory frameworks that foster business and consumer confidence in the establishment of a larger digital economy. The principal objective of this Strategy is to create an enabling environment that facilitates and promotes e-commerce for local businesses to serve domestic and international consumer markets. The Strategy can be viewed at https://tradeind.gov.tt/ecommerce/.

The Government is also offering financing through exporTT for first time website development and/or upgrades to existing websites for current/potential exporters. Visit https://exportt.co.tt/co-financing/ for the selection criteria and more information.

  • Trinidad and Tobago continues to score well in several relevant international ratings:
    T&T ranked in the top 10 developing and transition economies for Latin America and the Caribbean in UNCTAD1’s Business to Consumer index 2019. The country’s overall rank was 70 out of 152 economies.
  • T&T ranked 67 out of 139 economies in the 2016 Global Technology Report. The country did particularly well ranking 35th out of 139 countries in the Readiness Sub index. The Readiness Sub index measures the development of ICT infrastructure (including the mobile network coverage, international Internet bandwidth, secure internet servers and electricity production), the cost of accessing ICT either via mobile telephony or fixed broadband internet and the ability of a society to make an effective use of ICT due to the existence of basic educational skills.

In addition, data shows that in 20192 , social media use and mobile social media users grew by 1.3% and 5.7% respectively, in Trinidad and Tobago.

This presents a real opportunity on which businesses could capitalise on.

Trinidad and Tobago has:

  • 1.85 million mobile subscriptions for a population of 1.37million. This represents a 135% penetration rate of mobile phone users.
  • 1.01 million internet users, which means 73% of the total population is using the internet.
  • 810,000 active social media users.
  • 920,000 active mobile internet users.
  • 740,000 mobile media social users.
  • Total Advertising audience on Facebook (Monthly active users) = 400,000
  • 81% of the population has an account with a financial institution.
  • 20% of the population has a credit card.
  • 20% of population makes online purchases and/or pays bills online.

e-commerce Platforms
Local entrepreneurs have been challenging the status quo of e-commerce by innovatively using social media apps. There are approximately 810,000 active social media users in Trinidad and Tobago. This represents 810,000 potential customers to connect with to promote business and ultimately sell and deliver goods and services. At this time Facebook is the most used social media tool, with a cross section of small, medium and large businesses choosing to operate e-shops on that application. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WordPress and WhatsApp are also equally effective free platforms on which MSMEs may operate virtual storefronts. However, entrepreneurs are not limited to these apps as they can develop their own e-commerce websites using free platforms such as:
Big Cartel
Word Press
There are also monthly subscribed e-commerce platforms such as Fygaro, Magento and locally developed Buzz Pay that have been endorsed by local experts for their simple navigation and successful operation in Trinidad and Tobago.

e-Payment Options
Once the most suitable medium is chosen for the operation of a virtual store, entrepreneurs should seek to integrate a secure and convenient online payment solution which would meet the needs of customers whether they possess a bank account or otherwise.

Traditional Banking Solutions
Trinidad and Tobago’s major commercial banks; First Citizens Bank; Royal Bank of Canada; Republic Bank and Scotiabank offer a suite of e-commerce solutions. One of more commonly used is the mobile Point of Sale terminals that facilitate cashless payments. These banks also offer website payment integration options with First Atlantic Commerce which enables businesses to receive payments from local and international customers. They offer online bank transfers-transfers within the same bank are instantaneous while inter-bank transfers are credited to accounts within 2-3 business days.

Non-Traditional Payment Solutions
Necessity has also bred innovation with local software developers have found solutions that have integrated Trinidad and Tobago’s unbanked population into the digital economy. Today, there are diverse and affordable payment options which simply require access to the internet and a smart phone.

WiPay is a local online payment processor that has made significant strides in e-payments solutions. Their offerings include mobile point of sale terminals, the WiPay plugin which integrates on e-commerce sites, WiPay Top Up Voucher System which enables persons to make online payments anywhere that WiPay is accepted and the soon to be launched Rebel Prepaid Mastercard. The Rebel Card will enable persons to load funds through their bank account and use as a credit card.

Paywise is an online payment model that allows businesses to create an account which is linked to their bank account. This enables the receipt of cashless payments from customers via authorized Paywise Agents. Payments are directly deposited into the business’s bank account.