Hispanic Retail Marketing – SEARS/K-Mart Case Study
We hear and read daily about the increasing numbers of Hispanics in the United States. The latest census results indicate Hispanics make up 16% of the US population and that this number will climb to 25% or higher by the year 2050.
Through our Facebook walls that sometimes resemble malls, we know that the retail industry is strategically using Social Media Forums to provide enhanced customer service, engagement and brand experience to their customers. Something that is clear regarding Social media best practices is that connecting, listening, and taking action are keys to success and the right path towards long term customer loyalty desired by all retailers.
How does this apply when Marketing to US Hispanics?
To understand the fastest growing ethnic group in the US is not as simple as many may assume. Hispanics are a diverse group with deep roots in Latin traditions and are devoted family members. Hispanics are generally eager to be represented in all different aspects of American life, including being the center of marketing campaigns. As many recent studies show, Hispanics are active users of the internet, they not only value online interactions but they participate actively with their favorite retail brands through social media. To note, 48 % of Online Latinos have a social networking profile and 47% of Spanish dominant Latinos are internet users. This knowledge provides the retail industry a unique opportunity to have an open, live, and continuous relation that benefits both parties.
Let’s explore today’s retail world and analyze their strategies behind outreach to the Hispanic Market in the US, and in Sear’s case globally. In this blog, SEARS is being featured for the long term commitment to customer service and constant exploration of new opportunities within the Hispanic segment of the US and Latin America.
“My Sears” Community
Early on, SEARS understood the importance and positive impact of Social Media by creating various social media channels to get feedback and insight from customers. Their social media efforts drive a two way conversation and ultimately deliver business insights to improve the shopping experience in-store and on-line. These multi-channels help customers to shop smarter, save time, and save money, which is what we all seek regardless of our ethnicity! When Oscar Castro, the Director/General Manager, Latino eCommerce of SEARS Holdings was asked about how Social Media fit into the overall Marketing strategy, his response provided a good summary of SEARS role in today’s Social Media ‘s frenzy:
“Social media is a very important part of our relationship with customers. We use social media to get feedback from our retail customers and make business decisions to improve the online shopping experience. We value our customers’ insights and make great efforts to drive conversation and provide them valuable content.”
Sears’ Social Media & Hispanics
Furthermore, when Mr. Castro was asked about how Sears’ plans for Social Media fit with the Hispanic and International markets, Mr. Castro explains,
“Sears Holdings has a large presence in these channels today, with almost 3/4 million Friends on Facebook for Sears & Kmart and almost 150 thousand followers on Twitter. Our fans & followers include bilingual US Hispanics, people living in Puerto Rico and abroad, as well as Spanish-preferring people (in the US). We have used our Facebook and Twitter presence to communicate with our Latino customers about local events, international promotions and delivery capabilities.”
On the Sears Facebook Page, the “call to action” is used on a regular basis inviting fans to comment and engage on each post not only with Sears but with each other bringing loyalty to the page and to the brand. A Facebook campaign found on Sears’s page is the Wish Together Deal Alert application. This is a fun offer application that allows people to capitalize on a heavily discounted item (think Groupon here) if over 50 people in most cases click to “Like” that item. (See image illustration of Wish Together)
Additionally, fans can look for jobs on Sear’s Facebook page, customize their own weekly ad circular, and order retail gift cards for their family and friends without leaving the page
On Twitter, @My Sears offers tips, promotions and a direct link to The Sears Daily Social news to all their followers. But the most important use of this channel is for fluid communications and effective online customer service by answering all questions and comments throughout a consistent two way conversation. See example below for a sample customer service interaction after @MySears helped a distressed consumer.
These two forums are not the only social media presence for Sears, as they use multiple channels strategically created to better cater to their customers specific needs and interests.
So when will Sears launch a Spanish language Social Media Channel?
When asked, Mr. Castro said, “There are different schools of thought on how to handle Hispanic Social Media, so we’re studying it carefully. We want to ensure that when we roll out our Social presence, it’s relevant, engaging and comprehensive.” And for that, we are all very expectant; Would Sears provide a new definition to social retailing for the Hispanic retail market? We do hope so.
SEARS , Hispanic Celebrities and TV
SEARS has launched product lines with Cristina Saralegui, Selena Gomez, and most recently Sofia Vergara appealing to different groups, ages, backgrounds, and nationalities among Hispanics. Mr. Castro highlighted during our interview an essential concept for Sears, which is “the power of choice.” Empowering customers is a very important strategy in today’s world of constantly changing trends, with savvy online shoppers staying up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and celebrity lifestyles.
Another key component of Sears outreach towards Hispanics is the relationship with Univision, the giant TV station in the US for Hispanics. Sears is able to provide a combination of entertainment and value with a hit show, “Arrasa con todo con Kmart.” Sears also provides the opportunity to become a music star through their show, “Quiero ser una Estrella”, the Hispanic version of “American Idol” featuring Hispanic talent in the US. This relationship with Univision provides SEARS Holdings with consistent brand exposure while actively supporting the Hispanic community.
SEARS’ Spanish Web Outlets
Sears has three websites that cater to the Spanish preferring audience. Sears.com/español provides information in Spanish as a mirror site to the standard English website.
“By launching Sears.com/español, we’re able to better serve customers, and provide them the ability to shop with a trusted brand, in Spanish,” states Mr. Castro. Interestingly, Sears has kiosks with the Spanish website in-store to allow English speaking associates to assist customers who may need assistance finding their product.
Sears has been in business for over 125 years, building a reputation as well as brand names that customers in Latin America demand. In Puerto Rico, where Sears has been established for over 75 years, Sears.com.pr satisfies the demands of the island by providing the same level of product options and engagement that there is on the Sears US website.
Sears.com/International serves the rest of Latin America. Important to mention as part of this international marketing strategy are the interesting campaigns over the years to support the Sears Latin American consumer base, including campaigns where shipping to 25 countries in Latin America was a flat fee of $19.99. “It’s amazing how this information spreads virally abroad, and we see new customers coming to our sites to take advantage of these offers,” adds Mr. Castro.
SEARS’ commitment to the Hispanic customer in the US goes beyond the use of traditional PR campaigns. Sears celebrates and understands their Hispanic consumers and this cultural understanding will provide SEARS the longevity of Hispanic customer loyalty. SEARS’ ambition is to be the online shopping destination for Spanish-preferring customers and this goal is consistent throughout all their online promotions that include their social media channels. Stay tuned as SEARS promises to offer much more to see in 2011-2012 for all Hispanics shoppers in the US.
About Mr. Oscar Castro
Mr. Castro joined Sears in 2006 and currently serves as the Director & General Manager of Sears Holding’s International e-Commerce business.
In his position Mr. Castro is charged with establishing and managing an online business to serve Hispanic and Latin American markets. His responsibilities include strategy, user experience, marketing, merchandising, multi-channel operations and customer service as well as P&L responsibility. He also serves as President of the company’s Latino Resource Group, an employee networking group. A native of Chicago, Mr. Castro earned a Bachelor’s degree from St. Xavier University and an MBA from Dominican University. Mr. Castro is also bilingual born to Mexican parents.
 US Census Bureau, 2011
 Interactive Advertising Bureau, 2010
 Pew Hispanic Center, 2010