Acculturation: The Impact on Targeting and Servicing the U.S.

Hispanic Market Tony Malaghan October 20, 2008 | COMMENTS According to the latest population projections by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million during the 2008-2050 period. Its share of the nation's total population is projected to double, from 15 percent to 30 percent. Thus, nearly one in three U.S. residents would be Hispanic. In order to better target and service the growing U.S. Hispanic market, marketers and customer service managers need to understand the consumption and consumer behavior differences that exist within the heterogeneous market we call the U.S. Hispanic market. Firstly, let's clarify the term “U.S. Hispanic” and its origins. The term Hispanic was first used by the U.S. government during the 1970 census to identify people with Spanish heritage. Hispanic is not a race but an ethnic distinction, meaning Hispanics come from more than 22 different countries. While there are similarities that exist between the various subgroups that comprise the US Hispanic market, there are also distinct cultural differences. These differences manifest themselves in a number of ways, including behaviors that marketers and customer service managers must be sensitive to in order to best serve the interests of this segment. Let's define what we mean when we talk in general terms about culture. Culture is the intrinsic system of values, beliefs, attitudes, traditions and standards of behavior that are learned in childhood and passed from one generation to another. Culture provides the blueprint within which individuals and households behave and conduct themselves through life-style and the way we do business. The influence of culture is so intrinsic that we are seldom aware of cultural influences because we are behaving in the same manner as everyone else around us. These differences become obvious when we come into contact with groups from different cultures who behave in a manner different to what we usually see—for example, personal space, family size and extended family, time orientation, number and role of children, etc.

These differences include country of origin. the individuals' feelings towards their country of origin or towards the U. multidimensional process that reflects an individual's choice not to assimilate generating three possible outcomes: low acculturation. etc. This adaptation is expected to be reflected in the consumers' behavior. is the use of Spanish language. Finally. affective and cognitive. music. Hispanic market is the differences that exist between the sub-groups that comprise this segment of the market.S. Alvarez defines consumer acculturation as: “A dynamic selective process generated by the contact of a consumer with a different consumer cultural orientation via acculturation agents or facilitators. An important element often overlooked with respect to the U. companies must ensure that they have an adequate number of bilingual representatives to service the Spanish speaking customer base. The affective level includes emotions that have cultural connections. implying individuals change along various dimensions of social functioning. Hispanic market and the general market in the U. differences in food. In addition to the difference alluded to above.The most obvious difference between the U. The behavioral level includes behaviors like language use. food consumption.S. Marketers need to be cognizant of those Hispanics that only speak Spanish and those that choose to speak Spanish rather than English. In addition to ensuring that marketing collateral and customer communication is provided in English and Spanish. the cognitive level includes individuals' belief systems and fundamental values. holidays celebrated.S. for example. differences in Spanish use and dialect spoken. high acculturation and . we also have to be cognizant of the impact that the process of acculturation has on this market segment.” Based on Alvarez's definition she claims that acculturation can be a bilinear. etc. Alvarez asserts that acculturation has been described as a multidimensional process. customs. affect and values.S. In a dissertation entitled The Acculturation of Middle Income Hispanic Households by Cecilia Alvarez from Florida International University published in 2004. through which the consumer adapts to the new culture. She states that it has been proposed that acculturation generates changes in three levels of functioning: behavioral.

how does acculturation affect consumer behavior and the approach to targeting and servicing this segment of the market? In simplistic terms.S. So. However. the more exposed Hispanics are to behavior and beliefs of the host country. remembering Alvarez's claim that acculturation can be bilinear leaves us with a segment of the market that chooses to be Hispanic with respect to certain behavior and beliefs and U. . the more similar they will be in consumption patterns to the general market (figure 1). This presents marketers and customer service managers with challenges and opportunities to serve their unique needs. This should be a red flag to those companies who are not developing Hispanic market strategies in the belief that over time this segment will behave the same as the general market. with others.bicultural.

the more acculturated they will be and the more likely their purchasing decisions.S. On a phone call they choose to speak Spanish. or switch between the two when they get confused or uncomfortable.e. Developing more in-depth segmentation categories allowing for the bilinear multidimensional influences. i. However. An effective way to segment the U. the longer a person has been in the U. will provide marketers with an edge over those companies segmenting solely by a generational approach. first-generation U. new immigrants. . second-generation. and advised the customer service manager that consumers in our target market can be anywhere on a continuum from a new immigrant (unacculturated) to bicultural/multicultural (acculturated). you need to segment your target market in order to successfully position your products and services. lifestyle choices. Customer Service So. companies must invest in a bilingual customer service infrastructure. and response to marketing stimuli will reflect that of the general market consumer. . Those already servicing this segment and performing best practices provide the following: • • Testing Spanish/English language skills to recruit competent and fully bilingual staff Bilingual training and certification so that associates are able to converse with your customers in appropriate “Business Spanish” .S. That is. English. Using this methodology.Marketing Just as in marketing to the general market. coupled with research. To service the needs of this new segment. characteristics and behaviors. high acculturation and bicultural behavior. marketing managers need to classify customers into different groups with unique needs. etc. Hispanic market is by generation. the tricky part is factoring in the bilinear multidimensional choice not to assimilate resulting in low acculturation.S. the marketing department has identified the target market.

Hispanic customers lies in understanding the segment and how this segment differs from the general market.• Certification of bilingual call center operations so that your organization is benchmarked and delivering services to best practice standards A company's ability to successfully target and retain U. .S. Those that will be successful are companies willing to invest upfront in the market intelligence required for successful segmentation and providing the servicing infrastructure necessary to give a competitive advantage over your competitors.