The key to achieving sustainable growth of products and services

In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment purchase processes in the city of Miami and in central Florida, which have allowed me to identify areas of opportunity for growth in the retail industry. This experience has led me to validate what I already knew; that the retail industry is not maximizing the power of purchase of the Hispanic market.

Considering that one of every four Florida residents is Hispanic, American chain stores don’t prove they are taking this market seriously. Many areas of weakness were found. I’m unsure if the power this consumer has acquired through the years has gone unnoticed. Perhaps, because of unawareness, stores do not see the need to have experts that can cater to this cultural mix that has things in common. By satisfying this, significant sales growth can be obtained. The key is being able to impact market niches throughout generations and by means of things which unite us culturally. It is offering customer service practices focused on this market. Remember that customer service is a value chain that permits long term relationships, making a product or service a first option. It is how to strategically differentiate yourself from competitors. My career has allowed me to occupy positions in purchasing, operations, logistics and sales for the Hispanic market, which has enabled me to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for decision makers, and how to satisfy client needs. Something that has become a weakness as well as an opportunity, is treating Hispanics as if all were Mexicans. This happens when buyers have no knowledge of cultural differences, vision, expectations and needs. Not all Hispanics like tacos, spicy sauce or tequila – without lessening their value, since personally, I like tacos. The key is to recognize minorities, their needs by geographic zones, and what unites all of them when making the decision of where a purchase will be made. It is a perfect mix to offer, how it is presented, and offering an extraordinary customer experience what will make that chain, point of sales, product or service in the customer’s first and only option.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) performed a study that was shared in 2017 to determine the economic status of the Latin population in Florida. These were some of its most interesting findings:

  • Latinos dominate the labor market in Florida; 63.9% of them are in the work force, compared to 60.6% of the total regional population.
  • Latin companies are a key source of growth in Florida. Between 2007 and 2012 alone, the number of businesses opened by Latinos increased 34%, with a total of 600,000 businesses that generate almost $90,000,000 in net income and contribute more than $800,000,000 in taxes, annually.
  • Latinos in Florida, different from those in other regions of the United States, have a high level of education. The studied showed that more than 670,000 Latinos have studies in superior education in 2014, surpassing the rest of Florida.
  • The average income of the Hispanic or Latino household in Florida is $40,903. In this sense, Latinos continue being at least $10,000 poorer that the white population.
  • The rate of Latino homeowners in Florida is 49.9%. Source: NCLR

The movement of Hispanics has been constant and the last impact has been that of the Puerto Ricans. This leads them to embrace a new culture and new habits, but also, we know that there are nonnegotiable areas which make them loyal to traditions, mainly focused on their palates.

In my visit to south and central Florida chain stores focused on the Latin market (Fresco, Publix and Walmart, amongst others), I noticed that the variety of products, their presentation in displays, cross merchandising and promotional pitches are not taking into consideration the cultural mix, and much less offer an extraordinary experience at the point of sales.

Are industry leaders aware of these clients’ expectations? How are they evaluating Hispanics? Does the store have buyers that are experts in this market segment? When group evaluations are made, how are prospects chosen? Is a budget being granted for this market segment?  I still see signs in multinational chain stores or in social media ads that have orthographic or grammatical errors, or literal translations, which although written in Spanish, don’t even make sense to this consumer.  I see product packaging that does not aim to conquer this client. Developing products (such as labels) for mixed markets has allowed me to understand the importance of those important aspects that should be highlighted in order to visually “connect” with the client and stand out in an almost three-dimensional way when passing by the displays. It is of utmost importance to understand the clients’ purchasing process. It is part of showing these clients that their differences are embraced, offering them what they need. “To serve is when, with love, one embraces differences and with purpose satisfies a necessity”.  The experience is tied to an expectation, and to satisfy a need. How many chain stores aim to meet the needs of the Hispanic market? Today, things are different, since technology offers tools that can identify who purchases what. Amazon, for example, is directed towards conquering 40 million Hispanics, and does it in their language: Spanish. How does the company do it?  Their strategy is tuned in to the needs of Hispanics and is focused on decisions of leaders that try to change the conduct of that consumer, submerging it in theirs.

It is time to stop and position oneself in a growing market segment. The Hispanic market, just like any other market, has expectations when making its purchases, and how these expectations are met will permit long term relationships, as those needs are satisfied.

Astrid Vélez is a business strategist, lecturer, international coach, and owner of Astrid Vélez & Alliances. She is a specialist in the transformation of certain key areas in businesses that leads to a rapid, efficient increase in sales. Innovation, self-motivation, and strategic alliances are her main tools.