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Market Research has two fundamental applications in the business world. The first is to reduce the uncertainty that management might face in the decision making process, by providing information such as intelligence, statistics, and data on which to base future decisions. The second application is to monitor the sales and marketing decisions that have been taken, in order to analyze whether they were right, whether they need to be revised, or whether they need total rethinking.

Modern market research can help to increase company sales and should be integrated into the management planning strategy for sales and marketing. develope the Market in the United States represents more than $700 billion and a population growing by an estimated 1.7 million annually. Ad spending targeting Hispanics is expected to top $3.6 billion by 2007. Hispanic women, who often function as head of their households, make many of the purchasing decisions for their families.

An efficient strategy for marketing to them goes beyond merely speaking Spanish, but recognizing the diverse cultures Hispanic women come from, says Myrna Sonora, marketing director with the Michaels/Wilder Group based in Peoria, Ariz. Sonora joined the agency, which has a strong focus on multicultural marketing, after spending 20 years at Univision, the dominant Spanish-language TV network.


"It seems like there's a waking-up to this reality," Sonora says, noting that U.S. companies no longer doubt the viability of the Hispanic market. "Smart companies are more focused on going beyond all the hype and becoming more savvy about the Hispanic market in general," she says. "It's not a homogenous mix. &there are different cultures and regional language differences. [Hispanics] come from different countries and they vary from recent arrivals to established generations."


Marketers, Sonora says, need to understand a few things about Hispanic women. The first, she says, is that they are price-conscious, but not to the exclusion of all else. "Buying the best quality is somehow identified as a way to take care of your family," Sonora says. "Hispanic women are very brand-loyal; they stick to what they like and they're not easily swayed by price point." Brand loyalty, though, can be overcome if there's a product that represents a real improvement or technological advantage, she says. "It's seen as a progressive thing to do, trying something new."


The Vendors Television has been the media of choice for the Hispanic market for years, accounting for 64 percent of ad spending in 2004, but other media are starting to make inroads as the market continues to grow. As the number of Hispanic households with incomes over $100,000 surges, so too do the number of computers found in those homes. Marketers that are online via Spanish-language portals have an entry into these households.


AOL Latino was the No. 1 Spanish-language destination online in February with 1.6 million unique visitors, according comScore Media Metrix. AOL Latino has cultivated close relationships with advertisers in its "Estilo de Vida" (Lifestyle) section, which is one of the most highly sought-after areas on the service. Notably, the section has been home to successful campaigns by General Motors and Ford Motor Co. brands.


"We feel that the audience in this channel which is particularly women, is not often addressed this directly by the automakers," says AOL spokeswoman Lori Dolginoff. The travel category has also performed well - advertisers include Spirit Airlines and Interacontinental Hotels. The home and kitchen sections have outperformed some of the other areas on Latino, she says.


Yahoo! targets Hispanics in the United States primarily through Yahoo! En Español, although it also sees traffic from U.S. Hispanics on its other sites - Yahoo! Argentina, Mexico, and Spain. "We can slice-and-dice traffic to all four individually or sell [in the] aggregate when we can," says Liz Sarachek, executive director of sales at Yahoo! En Español. Sarachek points to a 10 percent annual increase in Hispanics online as a sure sign that the Web is taking share from other media. Offering the market a choice in Web sites is key, she says, since not all Hispanics want everything in Spanish.


"Out of 13.8 million Hispanics, English is preferred by 7.6 million, and another 3.9 million are bilingual," Sarachek says. "Language really comes into play, and you have to be cognizant of that when you're planning a marketing campaign."


Sarachek says Yahoo! portals offer a great deal of entertainment content for Hispanic women like Launch En Español, a dedicated music site. "We're seeing Hispanics doing a lot of downloading and streaming of music and ring tones online," she says. "A lot of these households now have broadband; they're very tech-savvy. I think it's an undervalued market," she adds.


The Players Sonora and Sarachek both say that, while things have improved, getting advertisers to rearrange their marketing plans to include a Hispanic component is still a challenge.


"A lot of it right now is still educating and evangelizing," Sarachek says. "It's an exciting time, the buzz is out there and we're getting more Hispanic requests than ever."


Sonora points to companies like Avon and Sears as two that have done a good job awakening to the Hispanic market reality particularly where women are concerned. "Sears has turned the corner pretty much," she says, alluding to the fact that the retailer runs Hispanic-targeted advertising, has revamped the look of its stores and merchandise. Last fall, Sears announced that nearly 100 of its stores would be revamped to appeal more to "multicultural" shoppers. That included the addition of new apparel brands with more crossover appeal, as well as dedicated signage in markets known to have larger Hispanic populations.


Sonora says the signage issue is a big deal; she expects to see more bilingual point-of-purchase displays in the future. "Hispanic families shop as a unit," she says. "You have to make sure grandmother can read [the signage] as well as the teen daughter."


But quickie translations may not always cut it, she cautions.


"Retailers have to take the tiny bit of extra effort to use regional terms and know cultural differences," Sonora says, using the example of the word "truck." West of the Mississippi, it's troca; east of the Mississippi it's camion. Marketers overlook such linguistic subtleties at their own peril and risk alienating shoppers if they're not sensitive to these realities.


Outlook Yahoo!'s Sarachek projects anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent growth in ad spending by marketers targeting the diverse Hispanic marketplace; she estimates 10 percent to 20 percent annual growth for Hispanics online.


Sonora expects to see more companies "doing their homework" to appeal to Hispanics and Hispanic women, in particular. "Some of it, like what Sears is doing, is as simple as the signage and using brighter colors and trendier fashions to appeal to a diverse population," she says, adding that such overt displays can inform the consumer about a broader corporate mandate."

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