Practical Ecommerce

Survey Results: Consideration of Ethnicity Is Not Racist

An overwhelming number of respondents to a September 2009 Practical eCommerce survey indicated that online merchants should consider a potential customer’s ethnicity when developing a marketing campaign. The survey went a step further, asking merchants to give compelling reasons to market to customers by ethnic group. Those answers may prove insightful for small business owners who have chosen to avoid the issue altogether.

Ethnicity Affects Marketing Plans

Not a single respondent indicated that considering a potential customer’s ethnicity was racist. In fact, 69 percent of ecommerce operators felt ethnicity was worthy of consideration in their marketing plan. A slightly smaller number, 62.1 percent, currently use sales data to track or analyze their customer base.

Survey Results

Survey Results

Merchants Respect a Customer’s Ethnicity

In an age in which business markets are becoming increasingly fragmented, respondents felt that personalization of their messages was important. Personalization cannot occur, however, without knowing who your customer is. Ethnicity is one component of a person’s identity and can ultimately affect the merchant’s bottom line. As one respondent noted, “You don’t market menudo to Caucasians.” Another shared, “There are always little surprises and differences in speech, customs, manners, etc.”

Takeaways: Ethnicity Survey

  1. It’s Business. Three times as many respondents argued that there is a business case for considering ethnicity than respondents who said there was not. Marketing is about generating higher sales. Most ecommerce merchants seem to believe that if information that can help them define their target audience is ignored, it will be at the expense of the company bottom line.

  2. Business is About the Customer. If we are to believe that personalization matters, then we have to pay attention—if only for practical reasons—to personal details. This can be especially important during holidays. “Probably not the greatest marketing plan” one respondent noted “to send Christmas themed marketing to Jewish customers or the reverse.”

Be Careful of Product Images

Even if you sell a product or service that could be deemed “gender neutral” or “ethnic neutral”, you would be advised to think this issue through. Do images on your home page represent only one segment of the population? Might other segments be potential customers? In one case, an ecommerce merchant shared that a photo of an all-white family on his shopping cart pages had created a customer backlash. In the company’s defense, the image was selected because the children’s clothes matched the logo.

You, as a merchant, may be sending a message whether you intend to or not.

Kevin Patrick Allen

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