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Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008 at 6:31 am

Reaching Hispanics Online

By Juan Tornoe
August 7th, 2008

Young Latinos OnlineI am a big proponent of bilingual sites for U.S. websites. By now almost 15% of the Nation is comprised by Latinos and among them 47% is Spanish Dominant (Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos Online, March 14, 2007). Even thought the latter are not as “connected” as their English Dominant counterparts, they are certainly catching up thanks to cheap computers, cheap high-speed internet connections and to the iPhone!

I’ve always advised that you should give your site’s visitors the OPTION to get the information they need from you in the language they prefer. It does not have to immediately be a full-fledged version of your English site, but at least a work in progress (make sure you accentuate this on your site) that shows Hispanic visitors that you consider them an important part of your online customer base.

That said, there are the other 53% of Latinos of which 30% are bilingual and 23% are English Dominant. So roughly 10 million Latinos prefer to speak, read, and write in English; they are not proficient in Spanish. That’s the size of the population of a small country! Now, these folks are culturally Hispanic, but you just won’t be able to reach them with any kind of Spanish communication, they want, need, and prefer to be access their information in English. And all sources confirm that these are the ones more likely to be online right now.

Even bilinguals to a certain extent, might prefer to access online information in English; be it because they’ve been conditioned by the bad Spanish language quality control on certain sites or because they were simply led by any means into the English site, felt comfortable there and did not feel the need to reach out for the information they were looking for in Spanish.

My advice to you is that you should begin to understand Latino culture and subtly begin to weave it into your website’s design and more importantly, content. Please note I am not talking about language here, I am talking about Culture; independently of the language spoken, there are scores of cultural nuances that remain with Latinos.

If you are able to include these seamlessly within your site in such a way that they speak, even whisper, almost on a subconscious level to Hispanics you will be connecting with that other 53% of their population that very likely are visiting your English site. You will be able to notice if you have implemented this successfully by the “ca-chings” of your cash register, since without alienating your general market customers, you will be connecting on a deeper level with English dominant Latinos, who without even knowing what hit them will be more willing to buy from you.

So what are those cultural cues you should be so aware of? That will be the subject of another post.

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Comments (11)

  1. Hi Juan

    You are completely right. Even though I have been working with Hispanics and bilingual clients in the US for two years now I seem to be making the same mistake of assuming that just because a client´s last name is Rodriguez, Bueno or Gracia they prefer to be approached in Spanish. Hispanics are the biggest minority in the US and their process of acculturation has been going on for decades and assuming that they speak Spanish simply because their parents probably did is a mistake we all have to learn from.

  2. It’s amazing how few companies have any Spanish content on their websites. Just this morning, I was looking for information in Spanish on Target’s and Walmart’s websites and there is nothing!

    I’m looking forward to the post on cultural cues.

  3. Fabio,

    You are correct. In our company alone we have had Garcias, Delgados, etc. and the only ones who actually spoke Spanish were the Eisenbergs.

  4. Bryan

    that´s funny, Last week I was about to record my podcast in Spanish (VivaReal Podcast)interviewing one guy whose last name was rodriguez, and since we had only chatted via skype I assumed that his spoken English was perfect, but it happened that he was actually taking Spanish classes and was practicing his writing with me. :)

  5. Thanks for your comments Fabio and Janine! It is in fact a great opportunity for many U.S. Companies. Thanks for your comments,

    Juan

  6. The Hispanic market does continue to grow.

    I was recently surprised while performing web analytics on several sites in the home improvement industry. To my knowledge there is no Spanish site for either HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com, two of the Nation’s largest providers in this space. I was refreshed at the seemless integration of Spanish content (words and images for text and coupons, etc.) as I began work with a California provider by the name of Osh.com.

    In reviewing some blogs I notice it is a touchy issue for companies and the web portion of this is clearly the last step, probably due mostly to costs of content translation. Thereby most organizations will suffice with ‘translator services’ or bilingual print in-store and/or advertising content.

    Regional response may be the proper since not all areas of this country are ‘highly Hispanic’. Finally, I am glad to see providers who can assist in the web transition and make it easy and affordable.

    [p.s. I formerly worked on a Minnesota State project where the mandate was to translate critical human services forms into 10 languages, plus English. I know a lot of resources are plugged into this effort. Worth it? That would be a public policy/resource question.]

    Cordially,
    Durwin Knutson
    [No Norwegian spoke to date.]

  7. Oh, after a larger search, HD has http://www.homedepotespanol.com and Lowes has an project area under http://www.lowescreativeideas.com/CiEspanol/. They look like they are for two different worlds though.

  8. I think it’s important to know that one of the actual growing markets for online access and services is the hispanic market. The rest of the market is already saturated. So those providing a hispanic solution are going to have an edge today.

  9. It is for this very reason I am studying spanish right now. Especially in my area, north texas, spanish needs grow by leaps and bounds every day.

  10. thanks for this article its reallyIn reviewing some blogs I notice it is a touchy issue for companies and the web portion of this is clearly the last step, probably due mostly to costs of content translation. Thereby most organizations will suffice with ‘translator services’ or bilingual print in-store and/or advertising content. good artcle

  11. Thanks for your comments Fabio and Janine! It is in fact a great opportunity for many U.S. Companies. Thanks for your comments,

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Helping businesses and advertising agencies craft messages that resonate with the Hispanic Community.

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