By Melissa Kress
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Retailers need to think outside the brick and mortar and move online to reach Hispanic consumers
That the Hispanic shopper is an important consumer to any retailer should not come as a surprise at this point. However, to capture the Hispanic consumer’s dollar, retailers need to think beyond Hispanic products and even beyond brick and mortar.
Ever since the dot.com boom in the late 1990s, businesses have been flocking to establish an online presence and that presence needs to address the needs of all consumers – and just as importantly, potential consumers. A major step to reaching them is moving past English-language websites.
“Globally, only 26.8 percent of all Internet users speak English. If a company’s website is only in English than it is missing three quarters of the people online,” explained Chuck Whiteman, senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint, a provider of website translation and globalization services.
That is where MotionPoint comes in. The 12-year-old business has patented technologies that make it easier for clients to target new markets in the United States and abroad by translating and localizing clients’ general market websites and optimizing them for specific markets. Its clients, including Best Buy, Verizon and Ford, are large companies whose brands are valuable and for whom growth opportunities exist outside their traditional markets, he noted.”Companies see those statistics and see an opportunity,” Whiteman said.Specifically, he said, the U.S. Hispanic market is 30 million-plus and growing. A large portion of that segment either wants to or needs to speak Spanish online. Furthermore, U.S. Census data indicates that 75 percent of Hispanic households in the United States speak Spanish at home.
“We are really data driven and do the work needed to optimize traffic and conversion on the website for each target website,” he said.
One of the benefits of MotionPoint’s technology is that the company’s clients manage their English-language websites and MotionPoint takes care of the rest. And while most major retailers offer a Spanish-language site, not all are offering an effective one, he added.
“The problem is that most retailers generally have a Spanish-language microsite. These are, by definition, scaled down in terms of content and functionality,” said Whiteman. “They are also generally updated less frequently. People who use a microsite get a very different experience: less content, less functionality and they are dated and stale. The fact that microsites are different is the reason they underperform – because visitors assume they are a lesser experience.”
To get a Spanish-language consumer’s business online, companies need to prove their online experience will be no different from a user’s experience on the English-language site. That is where trusting the toggle comes into play. Toggle is the mechanism whereby users can switch between the two sites. Many users of a retailer’s Spanish-language site toggle between that site and its English-language counterpart, Whiteman observed, and the two sites need to be identical.
There are some major retailers who are doing it right – Best Buy, Lowe’s and Sears, to name a few. Executives at Best Buy said the electronics retailer went live with its Spanish site in 2007 in a move to reach its Spanish-speaking customers “in the appropriate language.”"Users often toggle between the Spanish and English sites, so having the sites the same builds trust,” he said. “Best Buy calls ‘trusting the toggle’ the Power of Parity. Separate but equal is not really equal.”
Sears tells a similar story. According to Oscar Castro, director/general manager, global e-commerce for Sears, the retailer launched its Spanish site in August 2009 to provide a better online shopping experience for its Spanish-preferring customers.
Relatively new to the space is Lowe’s, which launched its Spanish site in August 2011 in response to the evolving needs of its Spanish-speaking customer base, Gihad Jawhar, vice president of Lowes.com, explained.
Executives with these three companies participated in question-and-answer sessions with Hispanic Retail 360.
HR 360: Tell us about then and now. What changes have you made and why?
Best Buy: The Spanish site has evolved in alignment with our overall online strategy and in our continuous efforts to learn from our customers. Our goal with the Spanish site is and always has been to ensure that we are translating as much of the experience as possible, as our customers have told us that consistency of experiences across the two sites is important in order to build and maintain trust. We have also put processes and systems in place to ensure that our translations are timely to align with the high velocity of promotional changes that can occur due to our “Deal of the Day” events, Midnight Sales and general promotional velocity during the critical holiday season.
Lowe’s: In the past, we had a few Spanish-language articles for both DIY (do it yourself) and commercial business customers, but product information was not available in Spanish. Now, our Spanish-speaking customers can find product information, how-to articles and even Creative Ideas articles in Spanish on Lowes.com/español or lowesideascreativas.com. They can also access the myLowe’s portal in Spanish to register their home profile, track purchases and find store product information.
Sears: The focus of the changes has been to optimize the experience, and we have made significant gains in speed, translation, promotions and product assortment.
HR 360: How important is having a Spanish-language site to your business?
Best Buy: Having a Spanish-language site is a critical element of our overall strategy to create an end-to-end Spanish experience for our Latino customers. Best Buy’s commitment to the Latino customer is seen in our marketing efforts, our bilingual call center agents, and our stores in key areas that have dedicated Spanish-language signage and bilingual Blue Shirts. All of these elements combine with our transactional website to give us multichannel competitive advantage in the consumer electronics industry. Through our customer surveys, customers have shown higher satisfaction scores when they have visited the Spanish site; they spend more time and have purchases with a higher order average than the English site.
Lowe’s: Lowe’s has a growing customer base that wants to be able to interact with us online whether they are researching a product or project, or want to purchase online. Lowes.com/español opens a new channel for this customer.
Sears: The Hispanic market is an important segment for Sears, so we strive to provide the best multichannel shopping experience for our customers. Having an in-language website is one piece of that equation.
HR 360: How has it improved your business?
Lowe’s: The biggest benefit Lowes.com/español has had for our business is the extension of our relationship with Spanish-speaking customers outside of our stores. Their experience is seamless whether they choose to shop with us in store or online. Before Lowes.com/español, there was a gap that existed for us in communicating regularly with this customer and equipping them with the tools and advice needed to improve their home. Since the launch of Lowes.com/español, we have seen incremental traffic grow month to month on the site.
HR 360: How do you get the word out to Hispanic consumers?Sears: Having a Spanish site has allowed us to better serve our U.S. Hispanic customers, and reinforce brand loyalty. We have also leveraged the Spanish site to serve Spanish-speaking customers outside of the U.S. through our international site.
Best Buy: We are marketing the site in various methods and continue to refine our strategy in raising visibility to our site with both our customers and our Blue Shirts. Examples of our efforts can be seen in our translated weekly inserts in key marketing areas, online media, social media, radio, in-store signage and other print media.
Lowe’s: When Lowe’s launched the website in August, we supported the launch with print, broadcast, radio and digital advertising. We also invested in optimizing our paid search for the site.
Sears: We have integrated marketing plans in place to make customers aware of our Spanish site, and our Puerto Rico site. We are an industry leader in Latino eCommerce, leveraging marketing channels to support the business. We combine print, broadcast media and digital marketing channels to connect with our customers.
HR 360: Some say separate but equal is not necessarily equal. How important is it to trust the toggle?
Best Buy: The toggle is very important as part of our efforts to build customer trust. We know that our customers use the toggle in order to see content and pricing on both websites. Having the toggle communicates to our customers that the experience is the same and that they have a choice of the language preference as they engage with the Best Buy brand.
Lowe’s: Lowes.com/español is a mirror of our English website. Any price, promotion or value that you see on Lowes.com is the same on Lowes.com/español. Consumers can shop, research and interact with Lowes.com in English or Spanish and have the same experience.
Sears: We consider it vital for our customers to have full confidence in our Spanish-language experience. We want our Spanish-preferring customers to know that they will get the same access to products, prices and promotions as our English-preferring customers. Our goal is simply to make the online shopping experience more convenient for them.
HR 360: What steps have you taken to gain that trust?
Best Buy: To date, we have placed a priority on having consistent experiences across the Spanish and English websites. We seek to be consistent and thoughtful on the content that we do translate, and forthright on the content that is not translated. Having the toggle across multiple touch points of the site and on our e-mails allows the customers to choose their preference, and validate if they choose to, a consistent experience.
Lowe’s: Launching Lowes.com/español is our proof point. We needed a channel for our Spanish-speaking customers to interact with the content, products and promotions on Lowes.com. As noted before, Lowes.com/español is a mirror of the English website, so they can trust that what they see is the same whether they choose to consume content in English or Spanish.
Sears: We go the extra mile to ensure parity between our English and Spanish sites. We have also taken great care to provide clear information on what customers can expect while shopping our Spanish site. Additionally, we have invested time on improving our back-end processes to ensure that we deliver on the promise to our customers.
HR 360: How can a retailer ensure that switching languages does not mean sacrificing product details?
Best Buy: By understanding those customer needs that the website fulfills and planning ahead to ensure those details are prioritized, and also by working closely with their translation partner to align on those priorities and SLAs [service level agreement]. The appropriate partner will not only provide a translation service, but will understand your business rhythms and objectives in order to create the experience that is appropriate for your brand and for your customers. We know through our customer satisfaction scores that product information is critical to customers achieving their goals and we do our best to maintain the integrity of that information.
Lowe’s: When we chose to offer Lowes.com in Spanish, we wanted to ensure that the quality of the translation was top notch. That is why we made the decision to use human translation and not an automatic translation program. Certainly given that our translations are made by humans and not machines, there is a natural delay for posting translated content. But the quality of our product details and content is top notch since we made the investment in human translation.
Sears: For organizations that choose to ensure parity between English and Spanish sites, that includes the amount and quality of information available to help customers make informed purchase decisions. One way to ensure this is through translation and ensuring that the translated content matches the original content, rather than being paraphrased.
HR 360: Do you customize the Spanish-language site in any way? Tailor it for Hispanic consumers specifically?
Best Buy: I think retailers need to use a very thoughtful approach, and test and learn methodology as they evaluate the opportunity for customized content, both in terms of the approach with the customers and how it aligns with general, non-language specific value propositions. Our customers with a Spanish-language preference have communicated to us that they value a consistent experience across their language choices.
Lowe’s: Currently, no. However our website continues to evolve every day as we evaluate ways to improve the online experience for our customers. Consumers continue to demand a more personalized, localized experience online, so we will evaluate how to best deliver a personalized experience on Lowes.com and Lowes.com/español.
Sears: Our goal is to provide the same shopping experience to our Spanish-preferring customers, including the same options and functionality. The answer on whether to customize or localize will vary by organization. We choose to offer the same experience online and instead customize marketing messages to connect with our customers.
HR 360: Is it more labor intensive to maintain a Spanish-language site?
Best Buy: Given our early commitment to have a Spanish-language website, we have learned much and invested appropriately from a technology and resource standpoint. There are many nuances to managing the parallel, yet distinct experience of our website. We work closely with our partners and monitor our processes, systems, customer insights and staffing resources constantly to ensure we are delivering on that commitment.
Lowe’s: Just like any retail website, we have a large volume of content and products being added to our site every day. It is a natural part of our workflow. Given the volume, we use MotionPoint to manage and translate Lowes.com/español. We do have an internal team that works daily with MotionPoint to make necessary adjustments to the site and translations, but MotionPoint leads the operation.
Sears: Ensuring a high-quality Spanish site requires focus and resources. Aside from the operational requirements of maintaining a site, it’s also important to ensure the quality of translation, accuracy and cultural connotation.
HR 360: In general, how critical is it for a retailer to have a bilingual site?
Best Buy: For retailers who understand the opportunity that Spanish-speaking customers provide as the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, it is critical. We have found these customers to value having a choice of language across all touch points of the enterprise.
Lowe’s: We won’t speculate for other retailers, but our top priority is meeting the needs of our customers and making sure they have a pleasant shopping experience both in-store and online.
Sears: The answer to this question will also vary by organization. At Sears, we felt this customer segment was important enough for our business that we decided to invest in a bilingual online capability. Dependin