Multicultural E Commerce Challenges

June 28, 2012
From Ryan Joe in
April 01, 2012

Brands struggle to maintain multicultural e-commerce portals

Brands such as JetBlue and CVS pharmacy have had some success creating multichannel sites
Brands such as JetBlue and CVS pharmacy have had some success creating multichannel sites

Despite the increasing multicultural nature of the U.S. population, brands have difficulty maintaining websites specifically designed for multicultural e-commerce. Many retailers offer some aspect of their e-business, such as a social networking site or certain segments of the website, in languages other than English, but few field a full e-commerce website comparable to its English-language site.

When brands create a multicultural online presence, it’s nearly always directed at the Hispanic community. However, a brand developing a Spanish-language site does not guarantee that the site will have longevity.

Home Depot, for example, rolled out a Spanish-language site in November of 2008.

The site was functionally similar to the brand’s English-language e-commerce site, with roughly 40,000 products. However, in May 2009, Home Depot closed the site. According to The Wall Street Journal, the closing was due to disappointing sales and because half of the visitors were from foreign countries where Home Depot didn’t ship.

Despite the closing of the full Spanish-language site, the brand continues to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community largely through its YouTube channel, which has a library of how-to videos in Spanish. “We have an aggressive online plan that reaches Hispanics across language proficiencies and preferences,” says Alejandra Barron, senior manager of multicultural marketing at Home Depot. For Barron, fully understanding the target demographic remains the top challenge in Hispanic outreach.

“The nuances based on country of origin, acculturation and other factors present both a challenge and an opportunity,” she says. “The Home Depot invests in constant research in this segment so that our programs and our communications remain relevant as the segment changes.

The problem with creating a full-language mirror is delegation of resources. Developing and maintaining a separate Spanish-language e-commerce presence requires a team to manage that presence, respond to customer queries and maintain the site’s relevance among multicultural customers. For some brands, such as airline JetBlue, the decision to create a Spanish mirror in 2008 was a no-brainer.

“We have a strong presence in the Caribbean and Latin America,” says Mike Andujar, manager of Web production at JetBlue. “Twenty-seven percent of our capacity is in this region, and we feel it’s important that we provide our Spanish-speaking customers with a site they feel most comfortable interacting with.”

NBA reaches out to Latinos

The NBA launched a Spanish-language league website, but it wasn’t a slam dunk until they did research into its Hispanic customer base.

Click to read full case study.

While JetBlue’s Web analytics have not shown any significant difference in the way customers use English- versus Spanish-language sites, the content differs based on the customer’s location, Andujar says. “With the recent launch of the redesigned, we’ve enhanced the site experience for some of our customers in the Caribbean, where we have a large presence, by offering more relevant marketing messages and fares on our homepage using geolocation,” he explains.

The biggest key for brands building a full Spanish-language site is consistency across all platforms. Ultimately, a mirror should be just as functional as its English-language counterpart. If it offers a subpar or stripped-down customer experience, it will be difficult to get the target demographic to adapt it.

Best Buy’s Spanish-language site — a mirror of its flagship English site — is part of a full multichannel endeavor geared to Latino customers, says Lisa Hawks, director of PR at Best Buy. Besides a fully transactional and translated website, Hawks adds that

Best Buy also invests in bilingual call center agents and in-store employees.

The Spanish-language website developed based around the increased use of bilingual contact center agents and the fact that in-store employees, already engaged in local events geared to Latinos, needed support from the online channel. In building the Spanish-language e-commerce site, however, Best Buy felt it needed to replicate the experience shoppers had on the English-language site.

“In order to maintain and gain customer trust, we knew that consistency across the two experiences was critical,” Hawks says. Best Buy noticed differences in the way

Spanish-speaking customers used the e-commerce site. For example, Latino customers spent more time on the site than the average English site visitor and liked to toggle between the Spanish and English versions of the retailer’s website.

“Because our sites are mirror versions with the ability to toggle between the two sites, we easily accommodate the customer’s need to review the product, promotions and pricing,” Hawks says.

Similarly, CVS/pharmacy’s Spanish site allows its Hispanic clientele to manage prescriptions, locate stores, sign up for a rewards program and search the online catalog.

“As digital becomes more fragmented, maintaining a high level of consistency across all our digital platforms is one of the biggest challenges we face,” says Dustin Humphreys, general manager of “For example, while we currently offer Spanish solutions on the Web and via SMS messaging, we do not have a mobile Spanish solution to date.”

Brands setting up a Spanish-language e-commerce site must be able to change tactics as customer desires change. “We have built our Spanish site with an eye towards flexibility that will allow us to adapt to any changes in behavior and provide an optimal experience for all our customers, no matter their preferred language,” Humphreys says.

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List Building: The Four Questions Every Email Capture Page Must Answer

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From the folks at Marketing Sherpa, who just can’t help themselves when it comes to sharing fabulous, results based tips.

April 17th, 2012

This week I’ve been reading the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook featuring W. Jeffrey Rice, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), as the lead author.

This handbook is full of great and actionable email advice, but Jeff particularly pointed me to the section on providing new subscribers with explicit expectations on what, when and why they will receive email after opting in.

Since it applies equally to B2B and consumer marketers, I wanted to share those tips and tactics with you, along with a fourth email element — privacy.

Here is the set-up straight from the MarketingSherpa handbook:

The time spent researching and developing eye-catching and memorable promotions that attract new subscribers is an enjoyable process for most marketers. However, equivalent effort and energy needs to go into reassuring the potential subscriber that your company is reputable and trustworthy. This is because after you have caught the consumer’s interest, and they are listening attentively, the new subscriber needs to feel safe to exchange their email address for a “special” offer.

Setting expectations right from the start of the relationship will reduce anxiety in the registration process and enable you to collect more qualified leads. Taking the time to inform new subscribers of what you will deliver yields more long-term subscribers. Adding a “join my mailing list” box with just a space to type in their email addresses will not effectively communicate expectations.


The 4 subscribers’ questions you want to answer at registration

–          What will I get from you?

The focus here is on the incentive to register, and not the value of the content. Let the subscriber know what type of communications you are going to send them, and to quietly promote the content, display a sample email or newsletter with evergreen content that will be relevant to the subscriber.


–          When will I get it?

This one is easy — just let the subscriber know how often you will be sending messages. A better idea is to allow that new subscriber set their own frequency preference for your email.


–          Why should I sign up?

You want to answer two subscriber questions: “Why should I care?” and “What’s in it for me?”

Explicitly spell out the features and benefits the subscriber will receive in detail. Be descriptive and fact-based with this copy.

What you want to avoid is simply saying, “Sign up for our FREE newsletter.” Write from the subscriber’s point of view and explain how the opt-in for your email program will help the new subscriber solve challenges and eliminate pain points.


–          Privacy – how will you handle the data I give you?

Provide a link to your privacy policy at registration, and an even better tactic is to provide a very simple bullet-point list of the main aspects of your privacy policy.

Be sure to explain that the subscriber can hit the link to the full policy, but providing the basic information in a very easy to digest form can help reduce anxiety about sharing personal information in the opt-in fields.


Designing the registration page

Obviously part of the design and content of the registration page involves answering the four questions just highlighted in this blog post. Here are a few more tips to make the most of that click that landed a potential new email program subscriber on your registration page.


–          Creative consistency

Make sure the landing registration page looks similar to the ad or email that earned that click. This means using a consistent brand image, language in the copy, and tone so the new subscriber knows they are at the correct place.


–          Getting the sign-up is the only call-to-action

In MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Certification courses, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, makes it a point to emphasize that there is no place for “unsupervised thinking.”

Your registration page has one goal – to capture an email address. This means:

  • Don’t sell your products or services on the page
  • Don’t promote events
  • Don’t provide links that navigate away from the registration page.

You should, however, do that type of promotion on the “thank you” page new subscribers are sent to after a successful opt-in.


–          Third-party validation works

I’m going to pull this advice right from the handbook:

Third-party endorsements can go a long way in reducing a potential opt-in’s anxiety and apprehensions in sharing their email address. A well-written endorsement from a satisfied customer can evoke confidence and trust in your brand.  A video testimonial can be even more effective as people cannot resist hitting the play button.

A softer and more low-key endorsement tool is a subscriber counter. Seeing how many other people are benefiting from your email communications can establish you as a reputable source of information in the minds of potential email members.

Comprehensive pictures of the actual incentive gifts or newsletters can bolster the credibility of your brand and message. Conversely, consumers may interpret stock photos and generic sketches as insincere and hurt your brand’s integrity.


Keep your form fields short and simple

Research from MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report found that 65% of marketers reported new subscribers filled out forms with one to five fields.

Consumer marketers often only asked for a name and email address. B2B marketers usually wanted a job title and company name as well.

One exception to this, for companies with limited sales resources, is that adding more required fields provides both Marketing and Sales with more information to immediately begin the lead qualification process. This particular tactic applies more to B2B marketers than consumer marketers.


For more information, check out this video of Dr. Flint McGlaughlin speaking about how to craft an email and match the message to the decision patterns of the recipient of the email:


To wrap this topic up, Jeff told me this:

As our work life and home life continue to overlap, so have the communication tools we use every day. For the B2B marketplace, it’s common for the technology used to purchase backsheets for photovoltaic modules to be employed in the same manner as that used to select a new golf club.

This shared practice reveals that their customers’ priorities are not with the communication channels – direct mail, email or face-to-face meetings – but rather the relationship it has with the brand. The channel merely delivers the solutions the customer desires on the media tool they prefer, making the channel subservient to our relationship.

With the customer in control of which of the brand’s channels he or she wants to communicate, it is even more important to set expectations and only deliver what content was agreed upon. If the expectation is not met, the customer in one click can cancel his or her subscription.