Commentary

CVS Faces Uphill Battle With New Spanish-Language Website

In launching a Spanish language version of its website, CVS is attempting something that only Best Buy has been able to pull off -- successfully launching and supporting a robust Spanish language e-commerce site in the long run.

Supporting a large Spanish language website is difficult because they are expensive, and the market for them is relatively small. According to Google, the new CVS Spanish website consists of 67,000 pages, mostly of which are product SKUs. Creating and maintaining the content and images on all those pages is a complex, expensive and long-term proposition. In addition, a substantial marketing budget will be required to drive awareness and usage of the site. The price tag for all this can reach several million dollars per year.

Generating a return on investment

In addition to the cost, generating a return on a large-scale Spanish language website is tricky because the market is relatively small. According to comScore, there are 34 million Hispanics online (15% of the U.S. online market) Of those, 12.8 million are over 15 years old and use the Internet bilingually or in Spanish, representing the total U.S. market potential for the new CVS Spanish website. The following analysis shows that leading pharmacy retailers are capturing a small fraction of that potential.

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Total Bilingual and Spanish Preferring U.S. Hispanic Monthly Traffic, Age 15+

  1. Walgreens, 291,000
  2. Drugstore.com, 187,000
  3. CVS, 147,000
  4. Rite-Aid, 30,000

CVS is currently the third-most popular pharmacy site among Hispanics who use the Internet bilingually or primarily in Spanish, with just under 150,000 monthly visitors. 

Although there is significant growth potential, a key question emerges today. Can CVS generate a return on investment on a few hundred thousand website visitors? Although time will ultimately tell, insights from Best Buy's experience can help guide CVS.

How Best Buy made Spanish language e-commerce work

Launched in 2007, Best Buy’s Spanish language website now consists of more than 1 million pages. Although early metrics indicated that shoppers on the Spanish website spent more than twice as much as shoppers on the English website, the volume of orders did not meet expectations. Instead of throwing in the towel like Home Depot did shortly after launching a Spanish-language site in 2009, Best Buy thought outside the box and has succeeded as a result.

Best Buy enabled consumers abroad to purchase online when it realized its Spanish site was receiving significant traffic from outside the U.S. In addition, it recognized that Hispanic consumers were using the Spanish-language website to research products prior to purchasing them in the store. The combination of international orders and understanding the impact of the website on in-store purchases are key reasons for the long-term success of Best Buy’s Spanish-language site.

How CVS can succeed online in Spanish

This kind of thinking will be critical for CVS. In addition to recognizing the impact of the new site on in-store sales, CVS should also consider the following tips to maximize the potential of its new program.

  1. Provide health education in Spanish by translating existing the Drug and Health Information Centers into Spanish. As I discussed in an earlier post, this tactic will be well received by Spanish speakers as "Hispanics Have a Hard Time Finding Health Information in Spanish
  2. Consider a Hispanic digital strategy for the CVS Minute Clinic as this service likely resonates with Hispanics who would benefit from quick, inexpensive and high-quality medical treatment that does not require insurance
  3. Provide mobile applications (or a mobile friendly web site) in Spanish, as this audience over-indexes in mobile usage
  4. Ensure product descriptions are in Spanish as they are currently in English
  5. Remember that English-preferring Hispanics may not use the Spanish site, but will appreciate the fact that one exists
  6. Develop integrated Hispanic digital programs in partnership with manufacturers who also are interested in reaching this segment

Success will not come easy, as other companies have learned. But Best Buy has proven that it is possible. 

Now it's CVS’s turn.

1 comment about "CVS Faces Uphill Battle With New Spanish-Language Website ".
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  1. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media, May 10, 2012 at 9:50 a.m.

    None of this new-fangled technology works for the most part with the Spanish community. They are word of mouth, and they go where the rest of the community does. Best Buy had success. Problem is everyone has tried for years to use American-cultured methods on the Spanish sub-culture with no success. This will be yet another one. I have been involved with numerous companies who all eventually say, hey let's try to use these methods on the Spanish clientele. And every one of them does what the Home Depot did in the end and throws their hands up and says it doesn't work. A poster with smiling Spanish people on it and the words "SE HABLA ESPAƑOL" does not make you any closer to understanding the habits of the Spanish sub-culture. A website in Spanish doesn't either.

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