How Digital Is Changing This Market

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t agree that Hispanics are one of the most digitally connected demographic groups in the U.S. We’ve all seen the data – Hispanics over-index in the adoption of technology, and in the consumption of Web, mobile and social media. I believe all of it. I see it all around me. Hispanics of all stripes – from older recent immigrants to younger acculturated third-plus generation – are embracing digital media as a part of their everyday lives. They are using 3G and 4G smartphones to go online. They are avid Facebook users. They are consuming digital video at record rates.

However, some important questions about Hispanic digital behavior muddy the waters beneath all this Hispanic digital excitement. We spend a great deal of time at my agency conducting research into the digital lives of U.S. Hispanics. The more research we undertake, the more we see a complex picture emerging of digital Hispanics. A custom research study we completed in April confirmed what we have been seeing anecdotally and informally with other research, programs and campaigns:  

  • Online Spanish-speakers are shifting to a preference for online content in English 
  • Spanish-dominant Hispanics do not express any barriers to shopping and buying products online due to language or culture
  • Bilingual and Spanish-dominant U.S. Hispanics prefer to shop and buy products on English websites
  • Hispanics who interact and function only in Spanish in their daily lives are disappearing because of their English dominated online behavior
  • Only 15% of Hispanic adults would prefer to visit the available Spanish version of a website because:
    • They are comfortable with English terminology online
    • They perceive English websites have better content and functionality
    • They feel many Spanish websites in the U.S. are translated poorly



Our research findings, while not exhaustive and directional in nature, point to some top-line insights into how Hispanics’ undeniable embrace of digital media is changing the Hispanic consumer at the micro-level and the Hispanic market at the macro-level:

  • English is the language of the Web for most Hispanics, including those who are Spanish-dominant – A large part of the online experience for Hispanics is taking place in English 
  • Online, culture is everything…language is increasingly less important – Passion points are critical, and potentially the only viable way to engage Hispanics as a distinct user group online
  • Increased digital usage is speeding the acculturation process for many Hispanics – Hispanic adoption of English-centric digital behavior is making dependence on Spanish language less of an issue to U.S. Hispanics, and potentially aiding in the acculturation to life in the U.S.

So what does this mean for a marketer that wants to leverage digital to reach the lucrative Hispanic market? At a tactical level, I see three broad recommendations:

  1. De-emphasize creating a Spanish language website. Our research indicates it probably won’t be valued and might even hurt your cause.
  2. Focus on key, distinctively Hispanic passion points – such as music, sports, food – as the strategic pillar for your Hispanic digital programs.
  3. Leverage the plethora of digital targeting technology available to identify and target ads to Hispanics online, via mobile and social media.
6 comments about "How Digital Is Changing This Market".
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  1. Carlos Rivero from, June 6, 2013 at 11:07 a.m.

    The U.S. Hispanic population represents 60% of America's population growth. As tremendous as this growth is, the cultural shift it is experiencing, particularly in the younger generations, is mind-blowing. Although I agree with many of the points made in this article, I believe that there may be too many generalizations for a complex market that continues to evolve. I would like to hear more on the following: 1. Globally, the Spanish language is arguably the second most spoken language in the world. Discarding efforts to market in Spanish in any way, shape or form immediately eliminates the possibility of international brand expansion and awareness through digital. 2. Although young U.S. Hispanics are primarily English-dominant, they are also experiencing the need to retain cultural values and traits that make them unique, part of this 'exclusive club,' where Spanish is spoken, even if not perfectly. It is the language of their closest Latino friends, their home, their parents. This is a valuable asset at any level of marketing. 3. Yes, marketers' lackluster efforts on Spanish-language website development have created mistrust and indignation for many of us Hispanics, who respect and treasure our beautiful language. This doesn't mean that a well-crafted Spanish-language website is not well received or embraced by those who prefer content in Spanish. The U.S. Hispanic market is in constant evolution. However, this evolution is simply not homogenous across the board.

  2. Louis Fernandez from Riviana Foods, June 6, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.

    Interesting research; did you ever consider that Spanish dominant Hispanics consume content in English because of the limited availability of Spanish version sites?

  3. Lee Vann from Captura Group, June 17, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.

    Jose, thank for the post, I think that Luis has a point in that Hispanics, regardless of language preference consume digital content in English because there is little out there in Spanish, my counter post can be found here:

  4. Sandra Diaz from DIAZ & CO. Hispanic Experts, Inc., June 18, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.

    Solving customer issues, not language preference, should drive the development of digital solutions to better meet Latinos’ needs. See my post at "4 Questions to Ask Before Targeting Hispanics Online" at

  5. Joe Kutchera from Latino Link Advisors, June 21, 2013 at 12:49 a.m.

    Good article Jose. Your points are correct except for marketers of services especially banking, insurance, and travel. Anytime a company wants to sell an intangible product online, a multilingual e-commerce site helps a great deal since photos of the product won't cut it.

  6. Mario Carrasco from ThinkNow, July 10, 2013 at 6:25 p.m.

    Great post, Jose. One thing we have seen in our research is that the move to English sites by Spanish dominant Hispanics seems to be driven by the creation of poorly translated English sites thus creating the perception that all Spanish language websites are subpar in comparison to their English language counterparts. My hunch is that as companies invest more in creating rich experiences in Spanish with translations that add to the brand experience as opposed to takeaway, there will be an increase in Spanish language online media consumption.

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