As more and more marketers are discovering, it’s impossible to think about any digital or e-commerce strategy without acknowledging the critical importance of the overall Hispanic population on today’s electronic marketplace. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 17 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, comprising more than 53.4 million, or nearly one in six Americans. What’s more, the Hispanic sector is the fastest-growing ethnic segment in the U.S., accounting for more than half the growth in U.S. population between 2000 and 2010, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. By some estimates, Hispanics will outnumber all other cultural groups in the U.S. by 2050. In fact, there are more Hispanics in the U.S. than in any other country in the world, save for Mexico.
Just as brick-and-mortar retailers have recognized the growing purchasing power, shopping preferences and influence of this vigorous and fast-growing demographic, online marketers too are beginning to see the value of personalizing and customizing every customer experience to better serve their individual needs. So then I ask myself a simple but very important question: Are CMOS acting like mobile and social “agents” for Hispanic shoppers and giving them exactly what they want (i.e., online content, messaging, images, offers) in the right way on the right channels at the right times and places? It comes down to a CMO’s willingness and ability to listen to and observe what customers are doing online, what types of sites they are visiting, what types of keywords they are searching for online, their purchasing behaviors and the like. The failure to listen can have the most negative consequences on brand engagement, loyalty and most important, online and mobile sales.
Think in experiences, not channels.
According to the Terra Third Hispanic Digital Consumer Study by comScore, Hispanics have actually outpaced non-Hispanics in the adoption of smartphones, increasing from 43 percent in 2010 to 57 percent in 2012. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 46 percent of online Hispanics over the age of 18 regularly shop online, compared to just 43 percent of general market online users.
Even more interesting is that Hispanics tend to use their smartphones to research and make purchases more than non-Hispanic consumers in every category. In fact, Hispanics are highly likely to leverage social, mobile and other online resources in their buying decisions, and in fact, are even bypassing the traditional PC-online route in exchange for the convenience of “always on, always connected” smartphones and tablets. As Walgreens CMO Graham Atkinson stated so profoundly at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum East in New York City last month: “Omni-channel is an experience strategy, not a fulfillment strategy.” To put that in simple terms, customers don’t think in channels; they think about the experience as a whole. Does the mobile site look like a duplicate, yet shrunken, version of a brand’s online site? Do the images and pages on a brand’s mobile site take more than 7 seconds to load? Is the brand’s Checkout button large and easy to find? Does the home page feel cluttered and make it difficult to find and use the search bar? All of these questions need to be asked when a brand is looking to optimize their site to be as informative, relevant and easy to use on mobile devices. If it isn’t, you can bet consumers won’t think twice about visiting a competitor’s site or even clicking away forever from all of your digital channels.
To be sure, Hispanics are not a monolithic and homogenous market. The group actually embraces dozens of different nationalities, cultures and identities, including about three out of every five Hispanics who were actually born in the U.S. As a result, buying habits and patterns may vary significantly depending on their country of origin and local community.
Oddly enough, relatively few mainstream e-commerce marketers make specialized efforts to personalize and tailor their presence across multiple channels to better serve the needs of this hyper-connected and demanding market. Some major sites, such as insurer Progressive, are setting the bar high in terms of creating customer experiences that are authentic, engaging, relevant and useful for mobile buyers.
While your site may be well designed for full-screen viewing on a PC, it may be difficult and impractical to view on a smartphone or tablet. Is the navigation practical? Are the products and options presented meaningfully on a small screen? Should you parse and meter the content differently?
Depending on the nature of your site, it may pay to invest in a so-called “responsive design” that automatically adjusts to the viewing device, allowing for a coherent experience on anything from a 4-inch smartphone to tablet, to PC—or deploy a separate, specially built layout designed strictly for mobile devices.
In addition, it would be smart to thoroughly test and experiment with your mobile presentation to discover possible obstacles, sticking points and other issues that may affect the mobile users’ experience. In the constrained space of a mobile device, you may need different tactics and approaches to ensure a seamless and frictionless experience. What works on the PC may fail on a smartphone.
People don’t engage with brands; they engage with a purpose.
Earlier this year, Gustavo Razzetti, EVP and managing director of Lapiz, the Latino unit of digital agency Leo Burnett, wrote in Clickz: “Social media has become so big that sometimes we forget to approach it as part of the overall marketing strategy. Successful brands have a holistic approach rather than approaching social media as a stand-alone tactic. We know that Latinos show a higher engagement with brand pages versus non-Hispanics. But that doesn’t mean that they will follow any brand. People don’t engage with brands. People engage with a purpose. And the most successful case studies are precisely those that embrace this approach.”
Now consider the fact that the Pew Hispanic Center found that 68 percent of Latino Internet users say they regularly use Facebook, Twitter and other social media, compared to just 58 percent of all U.S. Internet users. Perhaps even more relevant for online marketers is that Hispanics are actually more likely to seek advice and opinion before making a purchase, including both face-to-face and mobile and social channels. This means brands need to take ownership of what social channels they are embracing, how they are communicating and interacting with these tech-savvy consumers, and what purpose they fulfill. Otherwise, counting the millions of likes a brand gets on Facebook is just an empty metric if brands don’t, in one way or another, drive consumers to click more, read more and essentially spend more across multiple channels—be it in-store, online or mobile.
With more advanced personalization and optimization strategies, it’s now possible for brands to modify and customize the customer experience across multiple channels—in terms of messaging, tone and content—based on where the visitor is coming from, be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or another referring site. The result can make for a smoother transition between social and commerce, a low-friction journey toward purchase.
Never stop testing and learning.
Depending on a brand’s particular offer and target market, including a Spanish-language path for customers, may be worth testing and refining. However, you might discover that a simple language translation of your site may not be optimal; messages and elements that perform well in English may not work as well when simply recast in Spanish. It may indeed call for separate optimization and refinement. Should your buttons, calls to action and checkout processes be tweaked and adjusted for different language or cultural sensibilities? Only real-world testing can provide definitive answers.
UPDATE: here is a page that provides citizens with guidance on getting the most of the Census website. Enjoy!