July 2006 - Global Outlook: U.S. Hispanic

Spanish-Language Web Sites

By Lee Vann

As the U.S. online market reaches saturation, retailers can look to niche online markets to drive revenue. The Hispanic online market is an untapped niche market, with nearly 16 million individuals online today. Furthermore, millions of new Hispanics will come online during the next few years, representing a tangible opportunity for retailers. While overall U.S. Internet adoption growth was flat in the past 12 months, the Hispanic online market grew by 1.7 million individuals or 12 percent. What’s more, online Hispanics are more affluent, educated and acculturated than the overall Hispanic market and will spend over $6 billion online in 2006.

At first glance, marketers may look at these statistics and conclude that leading retailers would have Spanish-language sites, but this is not the case. As a matter of fact, few top e-commerce players offer fully enabled transactional web sites in Spanish. With millions of Hispanics online spending billions of dollars, why don’t more online retailers have Spanish-language sites? The answer lies in the language preferences of online Hispanics combined with the implications of developing and supporting a Spanish e-commerce site.

Today, 52 percent of online Hispanics prefer English, 27 percent are bilingual and 21 percent are Spanish dominant. As a result, online retailers have been able to meet the language needs of the majority of online Hispanics with their English sites. It is important to point out that online Hispanics, regardless of their language preference, have cultural needs that in many cases, are not addressed by general market English sites. Today, the size of the Spanish-dominant online Hispanic market may not justify the cost of building, maintaining, and marketing a Spanish site, but this is changing.

Of the 1.7 million Hispanics who have accessed the Internet for the first time in the past 12 months, more than 1 million or 60 percent were Spanish dominant. The Spanish-dominant segment grew 46 percent and will drive growth in the Hispanic online market into the future. By developing and executing an online program that addresses the cultural and language needs of the Hispanic online market, online retailers can drive market share and revenue growth.

Following are tips for developing an in-culture and in-language Hispanic online strategy:

  1. Plan in phases. A Hispanic online program does not have to be all or nothing. Develop a phased strategy that leads to a fully transactional Spanish web site.
  2. Build trust and design for novice users. Half of online Hispanics have been online for two years or less. Make sure to build trust and ensure information architecture and design is intuitive.
  3. Operational support. Make sure you can support customers in Spanish.
  4. Address the culture. In English or Spanish, address the Hispanic culture through merchandising, promotions and site design.
  5. Marketing. Consider providing access from your English site and online marketing so that Hispanics know about your site.

Lee Vann is founder of Captura Group. He can be reached at (619) 681-1858, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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