The Digital Divide Represents an Opportunity for Hispanic Online Marketers


The recently published report by the Pew Hispanic Center, The Latino Digital Divide: The Native Born versus The Foreign Born, highlights some important facts and opportunities for Hispanic online marketers.

From a high level, the report shows that there is a significant digital divide between Hispanics who were born in the US and those that were born outside of this country. The Pew Hispanic center indicates that 85% of US-born Hispanics use the Internet and 80% use cell phones. Compare this to foreign-born Hispanics where Internet usage currently stands at 51% and cell phone usage at 72%.

Using Country of Origin to Segment Online Hispanics

Although the report from Pew signals a serious social issue, I leveraged the data to develop a Hispanic online segmentation model based on country of origin and as a result identified a fascinating opportunity.

Using country of origin to segment online Hispanics illuminates two vastly different groups. Below I have outlined both segments and the relative characteristics of each.

US-Born Online Hispanics

More acculturated
More affluent
Tend to prefer English
More tech savvy
More comfortable purchasing online
Largest segment

Foreign-Born Online Hispanics

Less acculturated
Less affluent
Tend to prefer Spanish
Less tech savvy
Less comfortable purchasing online
Fastest growing segment

The Opportunity for Online Marketers

Some may argue that the US-born segment is the most attractive. After all, when compared to foreign-born online Hispanics, the US-born segment is larger, more affluent, younger and more technology savvy. That said, US-born Hispanics can be extremely elusive and difficult to target online. Relative to foreign-born Hispanics, US-born Hispanics tend to spend most of their time on mainstream websites and are likely more immune to online advertising. In order to reach the US-born segment online, marketers must use relatively cumbersome tactics such as behavioral targeting, IP targeting, contextual targeting or even consider injecting more Hispanic culture into general market digital campaigns.

Although foreign-born online Hispanics represent a smaller, less affluent and less sophisticated segment, they are easier to reach and represent the greatest upside. Foreign-born Hispanics are more likely to use Spanish language website and search engines making them easy to reach. What’s more, the foreign-born segment is growing much faster than the US-born segment and foreign-born Hispanics tend to be more open to online advertising and are more brand loyal. To reach foreign-born Hispanics, marketers should consider creating and advertising trustworthy, culturally relevant and intuitive online user experiences in Spanish.

It is important to point out that these two segments are by no means mutually exclusive or absolute. Many US-born Hispanics prefer Spanish and are novice technology users while many foreign-born Hispanics prefer English and are advanced technology users. What’s more, most Hispanic households likely have both US-born and foreign-born Hispanics in them.

Most of us view the digital divide as an unfortunate social problem. I view it as an opportunity. Only by proactively investing in, engaging with and educating the less fortunate can we begin to bridge the digital divide.

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