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Despite—And Actually Because Of—The Numbers, Hispanic Retail Sites Are A Bad Idea

July 27th, 2011

And therein lies another huge language problem. Senior execs pour a lot of attention and marketing dollars into carefully choosing phrases and tone to send a precise—and sometimes subtle—message. It’s almost impossible to not lose many of those nuances when they are translated into a different language, even when the conversion is handled by a bi-lingual veteran marketer.

Don’t even think about using software conversions. Google Translate, for example, is a helpful tool, but it’s one that consumers need to discover and use on their own. Suggest Google Translate—or, heaven forbid, use it to create your non-English site—and you’ve endorsed whatever results it delivers.

This brings up one of the critical arguments in favor of having such a site: respect. Even if many Hispanic prospects may not need a Spanish-language site, it can be seen as a sign of respect that you’re speaking to them in their native tongue, rather than forcing them to read the sales material in yours.

That argument ends up supporting the decision for retailers to not launch a Spanish site domestically. Unless the language use is perfect and the marketing phrasing reflects your exact messaging, the site could be seen as sloppy and insulting by the very audience you’re trying to impress. Worse yet, it could be mocked, and that mocking could very easily turn into a viral hit.

“More than anything else, you’d be giving people a subpar experience,” Vann said.

The only major chain to offer a complete Spanish version of its site today is Best Buy, but Vann said that is only because the site is not designed to be used only in the U.S. Given that the Best Buy site is focused on selling to consumers outside the U.S., the numbers and arguments are vastly different.

This certainly doesn’t mean that retailers should expect Hispanic consumers to simply accept English everything. Spanish social media posts (especially tweets), customer-service interactions (online and especially on the phone), supplemental Spanish on the site and Spanish comments (plus Spanish responses to those comments) are a much more effective way to go.

Not all E-Commerce challenges can be solved by technology. And quite a few—such as embracing Hispanic customers online—can be, but absolutely shouldn’t be. Sometimes the most respectful message to send prospects is “I don’t want to disrespect you by giving you a half-measure because we speak different languages. I’ll deliver as much Spanish as I can where I can, but to try and deliver to you more than I can do at the quality level you deserve is not something I’ll do to you. Respect is sometimes admitting what I can’t do.”


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