Understand expertos and novatos among Hispanics online: Directo Days

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NEW YORK - While the Hispanic market is very varied and segmented, at the top-level, it can be best described by two terms: expertos and novatos.

This was a key message from Lee Vann, founder of San Diego-based Hispanic marketing company Capture Group, who spoke at the 14th annual Direct Marketing Association Directo Days conference at the Marriott Marquis here.

"Most expertos are born in the U.S., have been online three, four

or five years, are very acculturated and [comprise] the largest segment of the online market," Mr. Vann said. "They are affluent, younger and online buyers."

This group is more likely to use social networking sites and enjoy rich media on Web sites, he said.

Novatos, on the other hand, are generally Spanish-dominant, which means they are most likely less educated and less likely to own a computer, Mr. Vann said.

"They are born outside the U.S., older and online browsers versus online shoppers," Mr. Vann said, adding that this group is also the fastest growing Hispanic online group.

So, how do you reach novatos?

Mr. Vann said that most Hispanics, whether or not they are online, have cell phones, so mobile marketing might be a good way to reach them. Also, if you target them before they are online, "when they finally do get online, they are very likely to be loyal to your company," he said.

In general, Mr. Vann said that today there are 16.5 million Hispanics online, which is about 55 percent of the Hispanic adult population.

"The most important thing about this market is that it is growing very quickly," Mr. Vann said. "In the general market, in the last 12 months, the growth rate was about 1 percent.

"But in the Hispanic market, we are seeing a growth rate of 12 percent, which totals 1.8 million Hispanic users who have come online between January 2006 and January 2007," he said.

The online Hispanic market is also very young, Mr. Vann said. He noted that 56 percent of the online Hispanic market is in the 18-to-34 year-old age group

Why are Hispanics coming online?

Mr. Vann said a lot of Hispanics view the Internet "as something that makes their life better and helps them learn the American system."

Also, because online Hispanics are young, they also use the Internet for entertainment and participate on social networking sites. They use the Web for e-commerce, too.

Mr. Vann said that 75 percent of Hispanics online are English-dominant or bilingual, but that bilingual, Spanish-dominant and English dominant Hispanics are all growing online.

"We are seeing growth across all of those segments, but Spanish-dominant is growing the fastest," he said.

He said that "a bilingual approach is the best way to communicate with Hispanics online."

Building trust is very critical in this market.

"It is very important to communicate to Hispanic online users that you are trustworthy, that you are not going to sell their data and it is not going to get lost," Mr. Vann said.

Another finding Mr. Vann discussed was that online Hispanics - regardless if they are English-dominant, Spanish-dominant or bilingual - regularly visit English-language sites.

"The English-language version of Yahoo Shopping, for example, reaches 10 or 11 million Hispanics online," Mr. Vann said.

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