Marketers who choose not to devote significant time and effort to the Hispanic population are missing out on a vital consumer segment that is growing faster than any other minority group in the United States. In fact, businesses should consider implementing new approaches and strategies to target Hispanics. Perhaps the most effective way to reach this evolving market is through the Internet.

Research conducted by Brand Strategy Journal shows that Hispanics are the largest minority group in America. By 2012, they will account for nearly one out of every five American residents if growth rates persist at their current pace.

Buying power among the Hispanic population in the US is also increasing at a rapid pace. Between 1996 and 2001, the median income of Hispanic households rose 20%, from $27,977 to $33,565, while the median for all US households increased just 6%, from $39,869 to $42,228. In this day and age, the Hispanic audience carries significant purchasing power and simply cannot be ignored in a company's marketing strategy.

As their household income increases, Hispanics are entering cyberspace more quickly than any other ethnic group in the US. Internet usage among them jumped 7.4% in 2004, after an 8% spurt in 2003, the market research firm eMarketer predicted. It also projected that 13.3 million Hispanics were surfing the Net by the end of 2004, up from 12.4 million in 2003 and 8.7 million in 2000. Though they are still likely to be less wealthy than the average, evidence suggests that more education among second and further generations is starting to ameliorate economic conditions.

Marketers must also be aware of the typical Hispanic-American Internet user: 28 years old, slightly more likely to be male, and unmarried, according to a study conducted by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. Approximately half of all Hispanic-American Internet users are Spanish-language dominant; that is, at home they speak Spanish more than English.

This same study reveals that Hispanics spend almost five hours per week online, and for 71% of them the primary usage is from a computer at home. In addition to their time on the Net, typical Hispanic Internet users are watching 18 hours of television per week (approximately 50% of it in Spanish) and listening to 15 hours of radio (also half of it in Spanish).

More than three-quarters of respondents are using the Internet for email, 60% to get news, 54% to listen to music and 43% to chat. According to the 2002 Nielsen Media Research study, Univision.com was the top Spanish-language destination for US Hispanic users for the second year in a row. Rounding out the top five Spanish-language Web destinations for US Hispanic users were Yahoo En Espanol, Terra, Yupi and StarMedia. There is abundant evidence that Hispanics are a crucial part of the American customer base and that a significant amount of them are using the Internet. That said, marketers should use the aforementioned data to find out the most effective ways to get through to this demographic via the Internet.

Marketers must first realize that there are two groups of Hispanics in the US: native-born Hispanics who have lived exclusively in the US; and immigrants. These two groups are usually very different in their consumer behavior.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Epstein is the CEO of High Voltage Interactive. Reach him at paul@highvoltageinteractive.com.