Hispanic Shoppers Rule Back-to-School

  • by September 3, 2013

If you didn’t notice this year, there’s something that’s changing about the back-to-school shopping season: it’s becoming an increasingly multicultural experience.

Hispanics have been an emerging force in driving back-to-school sales, according to a recent study by Geoscape, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study examines common back-to-school purchases from 2003 until the latest BLS data release in 2011.

The results paint an increasingly diverse picture of back-to-school consumers. During that timeframe, Hispanic household spending rose 55% – nearly 20% higher than the national growth rate on back-to-school items. For higher education-related expenses, specifically college tuition, the results were even more dramatic, as Hispanic growth outpaced the national average by a 2:1 margin.



What does this growth mean for marketers? Most importantly, it’s another example that emerging ethnicities are creating a “New Mainstream American” consumer. Any effective business strategy must follow from a clear understanding of exactly who these consumers are and how they interact with the brands they like. Here’s a few ways to do so:

Think Full Service

Most companies think that a better Hispanic strategy involves hiring an outside guru or agency. While companies certainly do need a competent advertising or marketing agency that knows the culture and how to execute, it’s really about full service. Companies need a concentrated effort to attract Latinos – everywhere from the first touchpoint to customer service. This message needs to be transformed from upper management, all the way down to those in the call center. 

Tailoring to your target market on a local basis not only involves the marketing and advertising departments, but also staffing, supply chain, merchandising, facilities, signage and even product selection.

So, rather than dabbling year after year and seeing talent churn because of frustration or misaligned expectations, step one is to get your arms around the opportunity and figure out where the priority needs to be and allocate the resources accordingly. It’s surprising how few companies are really embracing it in that fashion. 

Segmentation is Key

When we think segmentation, we’re tied to certain demographic or geographic boundaries when finding the right audience for our brand. But there is a level of cultural segmentation that’s highly important as well. Any ethnicity, Hispanics included, have certain levels of acculturation to American society that need to be considered. It goes beyond language – it extends through their behaviors and preferences as consumers. 

But segmentation needs to go even deeper, as segments change preferences and behaviors quickly over time. For example, there is also the phenomenon of retro-acculturation, where second and third-generation immigrants begin to look for their identities in their root culture, whether that is through their choices in food, entertainment, music or religious celebrations.

The key is that each segment needs to be analyzed, mapped and correlated, which is especially important when targeting emerging ethnicities. No one group is exactly like the other. No group is exactly the same year over year. 

When it comes to targeting Hispanics, all marketers recognize that buying power is on the rise and their share of consumer spending is already large and growing quickly. But it’s the dynamic, diverse and fast-paced nature of the market that leaves many at a loss. Success does not happen with a magic bullet – it happens with a high degree of research, understanding and rapid execution. If you’re willing to commit the proper resources and energy to the initiative, from the C-suite all the way down, you’ll gain a significant edge over your competitors.

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