Practical Ecommerce

Marketing to the Online Hispanic Consumer

Can you afford to ignore 33.5 million U.S. Internet users? Probably not. It might be a bit more difficult to market to the Hispanic population but it’s certainly worthwhile. Hispanics have substantial purchasing power and they shop online. Over 50 million people in the U.S. are of Hispanic origin, comprising 16.3 percent of the population — according to the U.S. Census Bureau — and 33.5 million are active Internet users.

While in some respects their demographics are similar to other Americans, Hispanics live in larger households than the average U.S. family and have lower average incomes. Twenty eight percent of online Hispanics have more than five persons in the household compared with 24 percent of non-Hispanics. Sixty five percent have children compared with 57 percent of non-Hispanics. The percentage of Hispanic households that have incomes under $25,000 is greater than the average — 29 percent versus 24 percent for all U.S. households in 2011 — according to the Census Bureau. However, 11 percent of Hispanic households earned over $100,000 in 2011, an increase of 71 percent over 2000. The percentage of Hispanic households earning more than $75,000 is growing dramatically. These are the people most likely to be online.

Buying Habits

Despite the lower incomes, Hispanic households spend more on telephone services, men’s and children’s clothing, baby products, footwear, hair care, and toiletries than the average household.

Consumer research firm Nielsen puts Hispanic purchasing power today at $1 billion. Nielsen’s 2012 study, “State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative,” found that even though Hispanics shop less frequently than non-Hispanics, they tend to spend more money during each shopping experience. Nielsen’s 2011 Homescan survey found that Hispanics are more likely to buy name brands in three categories: hair care, baby products, and health and beauty items. In hair care alone, name brand purchasing is 43 percent above the total market.

Internet Use

Fifty five percent of online Hispanics are under 35 years of age. Although Hispanics are accessing the Internet in increasing numbers, they are less likely to do so from a home or work computer. They lag the general population in having any kind of home Internet connection and are less likely to have a home broadband connection (69 percent) than are whites (84 percent) or blacks (78 percent).

Heavy Reliance on Mobile Devices

Hispanics are much more likely to get online using a mobile device. Hispanic mobile phone owners are more likely than Anglo mobile phone owners to access the Internet — 40 percent vs. 34 percent — from their phones according to the Pew Hispanic Center 2010 National Survey of Latinos.

Because they are more reliant on mobile devices, Hispanics gravitate to the most advanced devices. A 2012 study conducted by digital research firm comScore for Terra Networks, a provider of Spanish-language online access and content, found that 48 percent of Hispanics access the Internet from smartphones, versus 38 percent of non-Hispanics; 20 percent access the Internet from iPads compared with 14 percent among non-Hispanics. Fifty-five percent access the Internet in a place other than home/work/school, versus 46 percent of non-Hispanics. comScore found that Hispanic mobile users who are bilingual are 39 percent more likely to own a smartphone compared to an average mobile user. Hispanics adoption of smartphones increased from 43 percent in 2010 to 57 percent in 2012 (for those who own mobile phones).

Study participants gave comScore permission to passively observe their online browsing and transaction behaviors from January through March 2012. comScore found that Hispanics are heavy users of online content and like to look at ads. Twenty percent of Hispanics use online content and ads for researching entertainment DVDs, and music and games, compared with 15 percent of non-Hispanics; and 30 percent of Hispanics use online content/ads for researching computers/tablets, versus 24 percent of non-Hispanics.

Social Media Use

According to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 44 percent of Hispanics visit Facebook more than once a day. eMarketer reports that 27 percent of Hispanic Internet users spend at least six hours a day on social media sites. Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, and YouTube garner the most Hispanic visitors.

Tips for Ecommerce Merchants

  • Appeal to younger shoppers.The median age of the Hispanic population is 28 years, almost ten years younger than the average American median. To capture Hispanic consumers, your products and marketing should reflect the younger demographic.

  • Advertise in Spanish-language media. Laura Sonderup, managing director and senior strategist at Hispanidad, a division of Heinrich Marketing, wrote in Advertising and Marketing Review that 38 percent of Hispanics surveyed found English language ads less effective than Spanish ads in terms of recall and 70 percent less effective than Spanish ads in terms of persuasion. Reinforcing this point, the Nielsen study also found that even with mastery of English, adult Hispanics prefer Spanish-language media, with 51 percent wanting to see ads in Spanish.

  • Write it in Spanish. If feasible, marketing collateral and product descriptions should be in Spanish. Sometimes this means a separate Spanish page.

  • Optimize your site for smartphones and tablets. That is how Hispanics access the web. Many companies are utilizing mobile Spanish language applications to assist Spanish-speaking customers.

  • Promote higher-end goods. Hispanics are brand conscious in certain categories, especially health and beauty, and will pay a premium.


Marcia Kaplan
Marcia Kaplan
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