StorefrontBacktalk: Despite — and Actually Because of — the Numbers, Hispanic Retail Sites are a Bad Idea
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from StorefrontBacktalk, a site tracking retail technology, e-commerce and mobile commerce.
With the growing U.S. Hispanic population, it would seem to be a no-brainer that major retailers should have Spanish-language versions of their sites. The reality is that there are far better ways to reach that audience — and that such site creations come with massive downsides.
At the top of the list of reasons to not create such a site is simple economics. It’s not a trivial investment to create a full version of a chain’s site in another language.
Making his argument for why retailers should not launch Hispanic sites, Lee Vann, CEO of Captiva, a Hispanic digital marketing agency, starts by noting that roughly 30 million Hispanic consumers in the U.S. regularly shop online.
"More than half of those 30 million actually prefer English. That takes the market from 30 million to 15 million," Mr. Vann said. When removing bilingual consumers who are equally comfortable with English and Spanish, that brings the Spanish-preferring number closer to six million. "And many of them are still comfortable with English," even though it’s not their preference, Mr. Vann said.
"Compare that to the U.S. online market of about 280 million people," he said, and the cost-benefit ratio of reaching that audience "would be astronomical."
For certain types of products that the customer already knows well, Spanish descriptions also may not even be necessary. "When it comes to SKUs, product images and descriptions, most people can figure that out," Mr. Vann said.
Moreover, accurately translating marketing promotional phrasing can be a huge hurdle. Senior execs carefully choose phrases and tone to send a precise — and sometimes subtle — message. It’s almost impossible to not lose many of those nuances when they are translated into a different language, even when the conversion is handled by a bi-lingual veteran marketer.
This brings up one of the critical arguments in favor of having such a site: respect. Consumers may look favorably on a retailer that gives them the option to be addressed in their native language. But unless the language use is perfect, the site could be seen as sloppy and insulting. Mr. Vann added, "More than anything else, you’d be giving people a subpar experience."
The only major chain to offer a complete Spanish version of its site today is Best Buy, but Mr. Vann said that is because the site is not designed to be used only in the U.S. Given that the Best Buy site is focused on selling to consumers outside the U.S., the numbers and arguments are vastly different.
This certainly doesn’t mean that retailers should expect Hispanic consumers to simply accept English everything. Spanish social media posts (especially tweets), customer-service interactions (online and especially on the phone), supplemental Spanish on the site and Spanish comments (plus Spanish responses to those comments) are a much more effective way to go.
- Despite–And Actually Because Of–The Numbers, Hispanic Retail Sites Are A Bad Idea – StorefrontBacktalk
Discussion Questions: Is there a need for Spanish-language versions of websites for U.S. retailers? In what areas should retailers be offering options to communicate with Hispanic consumers in Spanish?