Hispanic Shoppers Tend To Be Younger And To Crave Mobile More, Report Says, But Taking Wise Action From That Data Is A Lot Trickier Than It Seems

A new study finds that Hispanic shoppers are more likely than their non-Hispanic counterparts to use mobile and that's partially because the average Hispanic shopper today is 10 years younger. The report from the Integer Group also suggests that Hispanic customers are more likely to embrace mobile's interactive capabilities with friends and family—and to do so in greater numbers.

Like many reports, the statistics here do not strongly support the report's conclusions. The report found that "16 percent of Hispanic shoppers are using their mobile device to make purchases compared to 12 percent of general market shoppers" and the report had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, making such a distinction razor-thin at best. But the group has done enough reports in this area and has found this distinction consistently shows up when doing head-to-head comparisons.

Martin Ferro, a senior account planner for Integer and one of the researchers of the report, said the differences make sense given what he has seen in other reports about U.S. Hispanic shoppers. "They are for sure younger. It's really the new generation of (Hispanics) that are U.S.-born," Ferro said. "They tend to be the very early adopters of mobile technology. Besides the youth, the culture is a lot more comfortable with connectivity."

Ferro discussed statistics that reinforce political trends that show this demographic projected to grow sharply. "If you look at the population growth, for whites, the growth is pretty much zero," meaning that the number of non-Hispanics who die in a typical year are about the same number as those who are born.

Part of this is because Hispanic families tend to have slightly more children. "For whites, it's around two" children per family, Ferro said. "For Hispanics, it's between two-point-something and three. We're talking about one more kid per family on average."

For retailers and e-tailers, the bottom line is that this group—nationally—is going to be a steadily increasing percentage of your shoppers and that they, in general, have different mobile preferences. The key difference, Ferro said, is an interest in interacting with others while in the store, just prior to deciding on a purchase.

And although that inclination exists across almost all demographics who are in their teens and early 20s, Ferro argues that it's more pronounced with Hispanic shoppers. That means both that they'll be more likely to interact and, separately, that they're more likely to interact with a larger number of friends/families. The idea is that although a non-Hispanic teen might check in with one or two of her friends, her Hispanic counterpart would reach out to several more friends or family members.

Such insights are useful to consider, but it's not clear what different paths this suggests for retailers. This kind of interactivity should clearly be enabled, but any attempt to discern ethnic background and cause that to change how an app functions is a disaster waiting to happen.The better—and far safer—approach is to let individual behaviors dictate app interactions. If any shopper starts using the interactive function repeatedly and uses it to connect with lots of contacts, by all means, react to that.

Profiling—treating any group differently based on their heritage (and even worse, a piece of software's guess as to their likely heritage)—is never a good idea, especially when there is proof lying around.

Another is making sites more respectful and approachable to all groups. With Hispanic shoppers, though, that might not be so easy. A report from less than two years ago, for example, said that creating Spanish-language sites could easily backfire, if they're not executed perfectly.

That conclusion involved two parallel concerns. First, a site that is not translated perfectly into conversational Spanish would end up offending more shoppers than it makes happy. But second, many Hispanic shoppers, according to that first report from Captiva, would prefer an American site that is in English.

Captiva CEO Lee Vann made that argument by breaking down the numbers, starting with the then-current figure of 30 million Hispanic consumers in the U.S. who are regularly shopping online.

"More than half of those 30 million actually prefer English. That takes the market from 30 million to 15 million," Vann said. When he then removes bilingual consumers who are equally comfortable with both English and Spanish—a group that clearly neither needs nor particularly craves a Spanish version of a retailer’s site—that brings the Spanish-preferring number closer to 6 million. "And many of them are still comfortable with English," even though it’s not their preference, Vann said.

Alas, no one ever said retail was especially easy.