The Digital Divide Represents An Opportunity

  • by , Columnist, August 12, 2010
The recently published report by the Pew Hispanic Center, "The Latino Digital Divide: The Native Born versus The Foreign Born," highlights some important facts and opportunities for Hispanic online marketers.

From a high level, the report shows that there is a significant digital divide between Hispanics who were born in the U.S. and those that were born outside of this country. The Pew Hispanic center indicates that 85% of U.S.-born Hispanics use the Internet and 80% use cell phones. Compare this to foreign-born Hispanics where Internet usage currently stands at 51% and cell phone usage at 72%.

Using Country of Origin to Segment Online Hispanics

Although the report from Pew signals a serious social issue, I leveraged the data to develop a Hispanic online segmentation model based on country of origin and as a result identified a fascinating opportunity.

Using country of origin to segment online Hispanics illuminates two vastly different groups. Below I have outlined both segments and the relative characteristics of each.



U.S.-Born Online Hispanics

  • More acculturated
  • Younger
  • More affluent
  • Tend to prefer English
  • More tech savvy
  • More comfortable purchasing online
  • Largest segment

Foreign-Born Online Hispanics

  • Less acculturated
  • Older
  • Less affluent
  • Tend to prefer Spanish
  • Fastest-growing segment
  • Less tech savvy
  • Less comfortable purchasing online

The Opportunity for Online Marketers

Some may argue that the U.S.-born segment is the most attractive. After all, when compared to foreign-born online Hispanics, the U.S.-born segment is larger, more affluent, younger and more technology savvy. That said, U.S.-born Hispanics can be extremely elusive and difficult to target online. Relative to foreign-born Hispanics, U.S.-born Hispanics tend to spend most of their time on mainstream websites and are likely more immune to online advertising. In order to reach the U.S.-born segment online, marketers must use relatively cumbersome tactics such as behavioral targeting, IP targeting, contextual targeting or even consider injecting more Hispanic culture into general market digital campaigns.

Although foreign-born online Hispanics represent a smaller, less affluent and less sophisticated segment, they are easier to reach and represent the greatest upside. Foreign-born Hispanics are more likely to use Spanish language website and search engines making them easy to reach. What's more, the foreign-born segment is growing much faster than the U.S.-born segment and foreign-born Hispanics tend to be more open to online advertising and are more brand loyal. To reach foreign-born Hispanics, marketers should consider creating and advertising trustworthy, culturally relevant and intuitive online user experiences in Spanish.

It is important to point out that these two segments are by no means mutually exclusive or absolute. Many U.S.-born Hispanics prefer Spanish and are novice technology users while many foreign-born Hispanics prefer English and are advanced technology users. What's more, most Hispanic households likely have both U.S.-born and foreign-born Hispanics in them.

Most of us view the digital divide as an unfortunate social problem. I view it as an opportunity. Only by proactively investing in, engaging with and educating the less fortunate can we begin to bridge the digital divide.

1 comment about "The Digital Divide Represents An Opportunity ".
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  1. Blas Giffuni from Blue Advertising Inc, August 12, 2010 at 5:38 p.m.

    Interesting point of view, I still feel that U.S. Hispanic research depends heavily on the demographics of the segmentation; for example I have a huge social network of US Hispanics and none of them have been surveyed or part of research and would describe them as early adapters, spend most of the time online and influenced by social media.

    Also some of us we need to "prefer English" because of our work environment or because we don't like lower online experiences, basically we're tired of useless microsites that in order to convert you need to understand English and still expect to trust the site.

    I applaud companies that take a serious approach to reach US Hispanics no matter where they're from. Most of this studies, don't consider the fact that even that Hispanics are proud of their origin, therefore, seeing marketing campaigns targeted to them makes them feel proud, welcome and important.

    I expect to see a different result from the final results of the census because we should finally prove that the US Hispanic segment goes far beyond Mexican and Cubans living in the US.

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