February 26, 2014
By Nataly Kelly
The Hispanic market will represent $1.5 trillion in purchasing power by 2015 and 30% of the U.S. population by 2050. Business leaders who are contemplating how to reach such an enormous market segment, especially through their digital presence, often ask me the same question: “Do we really need Spanish, or can we get by with just English?”
A study from the Pew Hispanic Center shows that 82% of Latino adults in the U.S. speak Spanish, and 95% believe it’s important for future generations to continue to do so. Likewise, the National Hispanic Consumer Study found that advertising in Spanish can boost both advertising effectiveness and customer loyalty.
In contrast, AOL’s Hispanic Cyberstudy found that Spanish-dominant Hispanics gravitate toward sites that are in English, not Spanish. Why? For one thing, English sites are simply what’s on the web for the U.S. audience. Another factor is that Spanish-language sites targeting U.S. Hispanics are often riddled with poor translations and a user experience that is not culturally relevant.
If you want to market to online Hispanics effectively, you want to do it right. Here are a few ideas on good strategies:
1. Create a customized domain for Hispanics. Increasingly, companies are registering domain names that are distinct from their English sites to ensure an authentic look and feel. For example, McDonald’s has a separate site for Hispanics, www.meencanta.com, a play on its “I’m lovin’ it” phrase that still sounds memorable and positive in Spanish. Avoid simply using a subdomain, or you may be sending the message that the Spanish site is less important than the top-level domain from which it stems.
2. Don’t just translate, “transcreate.” On the McDonald’s Hispanic site, the content is completely customized for its target market, integrating games, songs, Hispanic celebrities, and themes that are more relevant for this group. Because creating brand new content can be expensive, many companies take a hybrid approach, leveraging translations of some of their English content while also using transcreation to generate content that is unique and culturally relevant. Wherever possible, you should avoid just translating your English-language content into Spanish without having a Spanish-speaking editor or other expert review that copy.
3. Offer bilingual versions of the transcreated content. Develop your Hispanic web content in a bilingual and bicultural way that represents your business. Provide the culturally relevant content in both languages. Allowing users to toggle back and forth also facilitates multi-generational purchasing.
4. If all you have is a translated site, don’t neglect it. Perhaps you don’t have time or budget right now to develop custom content for Hispanics. Even so, that’s no excuse for leaving the “Copyright 2013” notice sitting on your site for all of 2014, or for failing to test your links on the Spanish site. These kinds of errors are surprisingly common even for major brands, but they send a clear and unfortunate message to Spanish-site visitors: “You don’t matter.” And machine-driven translations rarely offer a good quality product. Get your content professionally translated and reviewed. If you offer parallel sites in English and Spanish, make sure to treat your Spanish site with the same careful attention as your English site. Equal respect for your customers means equal respect for the content directed at them, no matter the language.
Remember, the payoff for offering in-language content is huge, especially in online settings. As a study from Common Sense Advisory found, 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language. Similarly, 72.4% of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase if information is available in their own language. Translating or adapting content to reach a new market makes your initial investment in the original content go even farther.
Source: Harvard Business Review