Focus on user behavior and customer experience, not just on language.
Two Hispanic digital marketing experts that I had the pleasure to meet 10 years ago while building the business case for e-commerce in Spanish for Sears are now engaged in a debate on whether to use English or Spanish to target Hispanics online. Jose Villa from Sensis recommends “de-emphasizing a Spanish website since Hispanics are satisfied with their online experience in English” and Lee Vann from Captura Group has countered with “use Spanish since Hispanics have an emotional tie to the language.”
Of course, both sides are right… to the degree that the brand wanting to target Hispanics online goes beyond language to uncover unique Hispanic buying behavior and user experience. Addressing customer issues, not language preference, should drive the development of digital solutions to better meet Latinos’ needs. Here are 4 questions to help you identify key insights for that purpose:
Which products (or content) do Hispanics engage with on our site, and how does that differ from our average customer’s behavior? Here you’ll need to use models to predict which site users are Hispanic so that you can compare their behavior to that of other visitors. Armed with this data you can deliver Hispanic-targeted online ads to them in either language, or an English website that prominently features the items and topics that most appeal to Latinos. Conversions will improve given that you will be decreasing the number of clicks needed for Hispanics to get to what they are looking for. Brick-and-click retailers can also identify key items for Hispanics by comparing sales in stores that draw shoppers from highly Hispanic zip codes to sales in their other stores.
How do Hispanics use our site and how does that differ from our average user’s experience? In addition to looking at what Hispanics buy or consume, you’ll need to assess how they navigate your site. For example, if you discover that the cart abandonment rate of your Hispanic “suspects” is higher vs. that of the average user, you can find out why they are leaving your site by using a targeted pop-up window. If you find out that a reason is that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to research online and buy in store, the right solution to drive sales is to give them your nearest store’s address vs. creating a Spanish version of your shopping cart.
How are Hispanics interacting with our customer service agents? Jose’s study showed that one reason why Hispanics prefer mainstream sites in English is because Spanish versions are lackluster. To truly assess your need for a website in Spanish, start by offering customers the option to interact with you over the phone in Spanish. Once implemented, calculate a ratio by dividing the % of overall callers that use the Spanish option by the % of visitors to your site that are Hispanic “suspects” – if the ratio is more than 0.4 you may want to think about having a website in Spanish. To decide whether it is a worthwhile investment, calculate your Hispanic dollar opportunity for multiple years (click here to see how) and compare that to the budget needed to execute a Spanish website with the same level of content and functionality.
What degree of emotional connection do our target customers need to take action? If you need to convince Hispanics to change deep-rooted beliefs or have to deliver complex information, I agree with Lee that you’ll want to engage with them in Spanish. Not because Latinos can’t understand English, but because your message must touch the core of their being to drive behavior or increase their level of comfort with your brand to result in a sale. Thus, healthcare and financial services may require a higher use of Spanish than clothing, cosmetics or cleaning products. In addition, you’ll need to consider your target customers’ level of literacy in both Spanish and English – in some cases, and depending on whether your site’s role is to mobilize or inform (vs. entertain or connect), the best solution may be to supplement your written English content with audiovisual materials in both languages (click here for an example).