One of the benefits of being in the advertising business is you sometimes get access to first-hand research – done on behalf of clients – into consumer mindsets and behavior that doesn’t always show up in published reports and syndicated research. As an example, over the last 18 months, my agency has conducted numerous ethnographic interviews with U.S. Hispanics aimed at better understanding their digital behavior. One interesting, and somewhat unexpected trend emerged from our interviews: Hispanics, particularly older, less acculturated, and Spanish-dominant Hispanics, are increasingly using tablets.
You may ask why this finding is surprising. There is a great deal of published research indicating U.S. Hispanics are early adopters of new mobile devices and technology. A November 2010 Pew Hispanic report showed 7 percent of Hispanics owned tablets – more than whites or African Americans. EMarketer released a June 2012 report projecting 24 percent of Hispanics will be using tablets by 2015, second only to Asians.
However, when you break down this data, it shows most of the early adoption of mobile devices and increased tablet usage is occurring among younger and more acculturated Hispanics. The trend toward tablet usage we’ve been seeing is among a completely different segment of the Hispanic population. Older, less tech-savvy and Spanish-preferring Hispanics, who are less likely to use computers and the Internet.
What’s more interesting is why. Our research uncovered two interrelated drivers of tablet adoption among this group of Hispanics:
• Tablets are a cost-effective alternative to PCs for many Hispanics
• Tablets are easier to learn to use than PCs, particularly for less technically savvy Hispanics
The first finding is consistent with research showing Hispanics increasingly opting for smartphones as lower cost PC alternatives. The underlying insight is price sensitivity – a characteristic driver of many Hispanic purchasing decisions that has been a pillar of Hispanic marketing strategies for years.
The second finding indicates something much more significant about current and future Hispanic digital behavior, and it’s a potential game changer. It goes to the heart of why the Apple’s iPad was so successful – it was a radically different device that allowed users to use and consume digital media in a more intuitive and powerful way. For many Hispanics, tablets might be a bridge that finally ends what is left of the “digital divide.”
My hypothesis is that Hispanic use of tablets will increase significantly, likely increasing well beyond the 24 percent Hispanic tablet penetration projected by eMarketer at the end of the next three years. EMarketer’s projections don’t consider tablets will likely attract many Hispanics who have never used computers or the Internet before. I don’t think it’s crazy to expect close to 50 percent tablet penetration in the Hispanic market in the next three years, driven by lower prices, easier to use devices, and better and cheaper connectivity. The implications for Hispanic marketers, particularly in the digital space are significant.
This trend towards tablets requires a fundamental rethinking about how to interact and engage with Hispanic users digitally. Most Hispanic digital marketing efforts are PC-focused – emphasizing digital platforms like websites, microsites, and landing page and advertising creative designed for consumption on PC-based browsers. For instance, most Hispanic digital media spend is going to placements such as display banners, rich media, and social media programs that assume a PC browser interface. Very little is going to mobile media placements.
What should Hispanic marketers, particularly those heavily focused on digital marketers, do? I suggest they need to shift their Hispanic digital strategies in both the short-term and long-term.
Short-term: Implement Responsive Design principles and ramp up mobile media allocations.
With responsive design content will adjust to the device that you are accessing it on (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept Wikipedia provides a nice overview of what responsive design is.) In the short-run, Hispanic marketers should start moving their websites and digital platforms to a responsive model. At the same time, they should ramp up their media allocations towards mobile media placements. Your Hispanic digital media plans should be at least 25 percent focused on mobile media placements.
Long-term: Adopt a “Mobile First” approach to all digital marketing.
Moving forward, future content, websites, and advertising should be created first and foremost for mobile consumption. This is a fundamental shift, it means designing websites with mobile users as the priority. It means producing content with mobile consumption in mind. It means reorienting your advertising campaigns with a mobile-first prioritization.
The Hispanic market will be shifting rapidly towards mobile, particularly tablets. You’re either ahead of the curve or behind it.