The Three Kings Of Hispanic Holiday Shopping

While it's not news that sales during the Christmas holidays can make or break a retailer, it is important to study those sales as a barometer of how shoppers feel heading into the new year. That's because shopper marketers have already begun planning for the 2015 holiday season — yes, a year in advance. Naturally, clients want to learn what they can do to develop more effective holiday programs for the Hispanic demographic. So, marketers often ask if Latino shoppers see holiday shopping from a different perspective. 

It’s a fair question. The answer lies in cultivating a better understanding of Latinos and Christmas. My initiation came six years ago when I worked on a big battery brand program. We had conducted many focus groups with Hispanic holiday shoppers. What this research and other quantitative data revealed were three insights in perceiving Latino behavioral dynamics.

I called these insights "gifts" from the Three Kings of Hispanic holidays.



Gift #1. The first gift I received was a better understanding of what I call "familismo/consumismo tension." Whether or not it's expressly stated, there exists an inherent interplay among Hispanic shoppers about what the real purpose of the holidays is — or should be. Are the holidays all about gift giving — or getting together? Some of the data from our qualitative study indicated a distinct distaste for too much consumismo ("consumption," i.e., consumerism). This segment of Hispanic shoppers questioned whether the real meaning of the holidays — which they believed to be family and friends gathering on this most special of seasons — was somehow being kidnapped by manufacturers and retailers. Some felt a "merchandise overload" was overtaking the season. Comments like "Gifts are okay, but they are more for the kids" and "What is really important is that we all be together" repeatedly surfaced in our research. "A gift for everyone” is not what many Hispanic shoppers desired. Rather, their holiday wish was just “being with family."

Gift #2. The second gift was learning the importance of spirituality. In fact, this is one of the key factors creating the tension outlined in my previous point. Because Hispanics are devout Christians (with a strong Roman Catholic base), religion is a far greater influence during what many of us perceive as purely shopping-dominated holidays. To Hispanics, holidays are also holy days. Whether it is preparing nacimientos (nativity scenes), attending Misa del Gallo (midnight mass on on Christmas eve), or observing the feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe, a Christmas holiday pie chart for Latinos would reveal a very large slice occupied by religious activities. Retailers and brands selling Christmas will bump up against this. The reality is that competing for Hispanic shopper mindshare during this season requires both creativity and sensitivity.

Gift #3. The third gift is what I call the "occasion smorgasbord." I've come to recognize that Hispanic culture during the pre- and post-Christmas season presents a virtual cornucopia of dates for bringing people together. This extended Latino season of socializing is an ideal invitation for occasion-based marketing (OBM) opportunities. Not only is there a high frequency of get-togethers, such as posadas, parrandas, or tamale-making parties, but when you factor in the religious days, the calendar would challenge a wise man. Notable among these OBM dates is "Three Kings Day," aka the Epiphany, a feast day which commemorates the visit of the Magi, or Three Wise Men — the Three Kings. Many Hispanic shoppers (a recent study claims 47% of Hispanics) celebrate Three Kings Day — called Reyes. Three Kings Day is traditionally observed on Jan. 6, a date which considerably extends the Christmas season for Hispanic shoppers. This takes me back to a program I managed about 20 years ago at Toys "R" Us in which we would give away a rosca de eyes (literally ,"king's ring"), a traditional Latin American Epiphany pastry, with each purchase. Well, toys practically flew off the shelves.

When you are developing Hispanic shopper programs for Christmastime, think about it this way: Christmas carries deeper emotional meaning for this shopper. At the same time, the season is longer, so wise retailers can reap the benefits. Thoughtful concepts and proper execution can make it a win-win. So how exactly can marketers formulate offers which reflect this state of mind and still motivate shopper behavior? First, grocery offers that tug holiday heartstrings and are tied to other purchases can build the Latino holiday basket. Second, don't overlook the Hispanic "spiritual channel," which can be challenging but also rewarding. Finally, make sure to leverage occasions that can hold untapped potential, like the post-Christmas run-up to Three Kings Day. You, too, may find visions of shopper sugarplums dancing in your head.

2 comments about "The Three Kings Of Hispanic Holiday Shopping".
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  1. cara marcano from reporte hispano, December 18, 2014 at 12:25 p.m.

    The season is definitely traditionally longer in LatAm, starting mid-Dec and of course not ending until after 3 Kings Day. Latin Americans traditionally also get xmas bonuses etc. and the idea of being "off" w money and family for weeks, not days. Always interesting to think @ say the fact that Santa is really a Northern, (Western European saint?) and so Baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men are the more traditional gift givers etc. The "WeAreSoRelgious" stuff is a bit over-simplified -- @ the intersection of religion as culture. We see some very not-relgious Latinos in US at this time and for example Santa and Halloween are now very popular throughout AMERICA (North and South) and especially in the US. For sure a fun space though to play in and make real connections @language, family, culture, mixing and fusion -- it's just a really fun dynamic time to be in this space and those of us who are feel really grateful for being here at this time ! ~ Xmas is also secular in a more 100% way to US Hispanics (similar to Chinese ) so say it wouldn't be as offensive to say Feliz Navidad to a US Hispanic who is not religious as it is required to say, say Happy Holidays here in NY at this time of year. In that we see the infusion of the religion total Hispanic market. Just a lot of fun! Feliz NAVIDAD!

  2. Roberto Siewczynski from Epsilon, December 18, 2014 at 5:32 p.m.

    Thank you Cara for your incisive commentary, love the insights you have added! On secularism I think its because for the most part Latin America is christian/catholic so "Feliz Navidad" is the norm kind of like saying "Kleenex" instead of tissues...but for the Holiday season if you catch my drift!

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