The Hispanic market in the United States is one of the toughest of all consumer demographic groups to understand. Hispanic people in the United States share a common language but come from many countries. Some are first-generation immigrants, others are the children of immigrants and still others have grandparents or great-grandparents who were born in the United States.
Some speak only Spanish; others barely know the language. Still others use Spanish in some environments, English in others, or a mix of the two called "Spanglish." Many Hispanic youth live in two worlds: one dominated by the culture and traditions of their family history, and the other awash in iPods, MySpace, mobile phones and the hip-hop music of the general youth culture.
There were 15.7 million Hispanic internet users in the United States in 2005, according to eMarketer, rising to 16.7 million in 2006. The number of users is expected to grow by 33 percent over the next five years, reaching 20.9 million in 2010.
By 2010, the number of Hispanic internet users will approach the number of African American users, eMarketer forecasts, showing the growing importance of this ethnic group online.
As of 2005, an estimated 40 percent of the Hispanic population ages 3+ had access to the internet, according to eMarketer, compared with 69 percent of the white population, 49 percent of African Americans and 69 percent of Asian Americans. The gap in usage between Hispanic people and other race/ethnic segments will close slightly by 2010.
eMarketer baselines its usage data on Department of Commerce estimates. As of 2003, the most recent data available, 37.2 percent of Hispanic people in the United States went online, according to the Commerce Department.
It is important to remember that the data includes both Spanish speakers and English speakers. In 2004, 31 percent of Hispanic people age five and older spoke little or no English, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Data on internet use by those who do not speak much English is hard to find, but an October 2005 survey by the Pew Research Center found that just 14 percent of those who took the survey in Spanish had internet access. The Pew Research survey also found that 46 percent of all Hispanic adults had internet access in 2005.
Whatever language is dominant, around one-third of U.S. Hispanic internet users are under the age of 35. The bottom line for marketers seeking to reach this demographic is relevance. It is a word that comes up a lot in "marketing-speak" but has special importance for the young Hispanic audience, which straddles both Hispanic culture and youth culture.
Consider this list from New American Dimensions of what Hispanic youth find important in TV advertising. Their responses are easily applicable to the online environment.
Debra Williamson is a senior analyst at eMarketer.This article is drawn from eMarketer's new report, Hispanic Youth Online: Language and Culture Define Usage. eMarketer is the "first place to look" for market research information related to the internet, ebusiness, and online marketing. To email eMarketer, click here.