Crutchfield's Hispanic Web Site Speaks the Language

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For all the talk about the growth in the U.S. Hispanic population and the need to design marketing programs with this audience in mind, many industry experts agree that direct marketers aren't doing enough.

One exception appears to be consumer electronics retailer Crutchfield, which since 1999 has served the Hispanic market with a dedicated toll-free number offering sales assistance and tech support in Spanish. In October, the Charlottesville, VA, company took the additional step of launching a Spanish-language Web site.

"Our customers have been asking for this for such a long time," Crutchfield senior Spanish sales adviser Clara Lyons said about the site at www.crutchfieldenespanol.com.

Retailers such as J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart have made limited portions of their sites available in Spanish. But Crutchfield, which is known for the depth of information it provides consumers, has put up much of its content in Spanish and is in the process of translating the rest.

The company also will post any new material that launches in English simultaneously on the Spanish site. It is even considering a Spanish-language catalog.

The biggest benefit to Hispanic consumers seems to be letting them do their own research before making a purchase, Ms. Lyons said.

"Before they used to have to call us and they'd have a catalog in hand or the [English-language] Web site in front of them, and they weren't sure what they were looking at," she said.

One big difference with Crutchfield's Hispanic customers that Ms. Lyons and the other sales advisers have noticed is that they seem to be more relationship focused. Though they may do their research online, they like to complete the sale on the phone.

Also, once these consumers find a sales adviser that they like, they prefer to speak to the same person whenever they call back.

"I'll have customers who leave six messages for me," Ms. Lyons said.

There's also a difference between how some English-language consumers and Spanish-speaking consumers use the search function on sites, said Will Fleming, CEO of MotionPoint Inc., which runs Crutchfield's Spanish-language Web site.

In addition to Spanish, MotionPoint, Coconut Creek, FL, also has sites for U.S. retailers in French Canadian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Arabic, Korean, Portuguese and Haitian Creole.

"It shouldn't be assumed that what's working in English will work in Spanish," Mr. Fleming said.

English-speaking consumers often have been exposed to search for a longer time than Spanish-speaking consumers. As a result, the former tend to use narrower search terms while the latter frequently use much more general terms.

Crutchfield wouldn't reveal how many of its customers are Hispanic but said that its Hispanic customer base mimics the proportion of Hispanics in the United States. According to the 2000 Census, 12.5 percent of the U.S. population identified itself as Hispanic. Market researcher comScore's figures for June 2006 indicate that 16.5 million U.S. Hispanics are online.

One reason Crutchfield and other retailers have taken so long to launch Spanish-language sites or have done so in a limited fashion is that these sites can require a significant commitment, Mr. Fleming said. Building a parallel Web site in another language can take six months or longer, and updates a week or longer.

However, using MotionPoint's proprietary language layering process, there's no need to build a parallel site.

Instead, a link is inserted on the English-language site, and MotionPoint's technology layers the Spanish content on top of its English counterpart, creating a series of pages that look, act and function like the English site. They are even indexed by search engines.

As a result, sites often go live in 60 to 90 days, Mr. Fleming said. Crutchfield, which has an unusually high amount of content, took 90 to 120 days to go live.

The translation itself is still done by people.

"This is the only way to ensure that the language quality is where it needs to be," Mr. Fleming said.

For Crutchfield, the translators are currently focusing on rendering the English content accurately in Spanish. However, the company recognizes that the Hispanic market has a different culture and is "working on putting that Latin flavor into it," Ms. Lyons said.

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