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*U.S. Hispanics Eye E-Commerce Warily, Says Study

U.S. Hispanics are still suspicious of e-commerce, according to a new study by Cheskin Research.

Only 12 percent, or 2.44 million, of all Hispanic adults in the United States have bought products or services online, according to a telephone survey of 2,017 Hispanic respondents.

The survey also found 30 percent of Hispanics who are online haven’t bought on the Internet because they “don’t trust the process.” Disclosing personal or credit card information online were key fears.

“Understanding the credit issues involved in marketing to Hispanics and understanding cultural consumer trends unique to Hispanics,” is critical, according to Felipe Korzenny, principal at Redwood Shores, CA-based Cheskin.

Still, shopping is the third most important activity on the Internet for Hispanics. Seeking information and e-mail are the top two reasons this population goes online, the Cheskin survey found.

When it comes to purchases, Hispanic spending patterns online mirror the general population’s habits. Books, CDs, airline tickets, apparel and computer hardware and software are the most heavily purchased items on the Internet.

These purchases can be described as a cultural syndrome, Korzenny said.

“Literature and music are cultural manifestations, and airline tickets are the means for getting together with family and friends, many times in countries of origin,” he said. “Cultural motivations and the prevalence of these items online seem to contribute to these preferences.”

Of those Hispanics, 18 percent said a computer was the most expensive item they bought online, and 15 percent said airline tickets were their costliest purchase.

On average, the surveyed Hispanics spent $200 on their most expensive online purchase. Ever cautious, 37 percent of those surveyed said their most expensive online buy was less than $100. While many were willing to spend more, $200 was the median amount, Cheskin found.

On the whole, a large number of Hispanics still prefer shopping bricks-and-mortar. Cheskin’s survey found this demographic liked to see, touch and try products; enjoy visits to stores; and relish the relative anonymity of in-store shopping trips.

Other reasons for the Hispanic preference of offline shopping over online were the option to use cash, merchants who speak Spanish and the lack of shipping charges.

On the language issue, a majority of the surveyed users chose English sites over Spanish ones. However, they read traditional media in equal amounts of English and Spanish, Cheskin said, and 28 percent of them used Spanish sites on occasion.

In terms of portals, browsers or search engines used, Yahoo! was the preferred choice of most Hispanics.

All is not bleak on the e-commerce front, however: Of the surveyed Internet users, 66 percent either intend to buy online in the immediate future or were open to the possibility.

An estimated 42 percent of U.S. Hispanic households own PCs. According to Cheskin, household computer penetration in the past two years is up nearly 43 percent in the general U.S. population and about 68 percent among Hispanics.

Yet the Hispanic market’s slow conversion to e-commerce means the potential still lies untapped.

“It largely means that computer companies and retailers have not made concerted efforts specifically directed to this market segment,” Korzenny said. “They have not capitalized on it, and the one who does will largely own the category.”

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