Sears Holdings Corp. is finding new ways to say “Hablamos espanol” and connect with Hispanic consumers. Through a new @SearsLatino Twitter handle and a new bilingual Facebook page, the chain retailer is reaching out to online Latino shoppers like never before.
"The Latino market is a vitally important customer segment for us. Given its population growth and high adoption of social media, this is a natural extension of our online initiatives," says Oscar H. Castro, director and general manager of international e-commerce for Sears, No. 7 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. "We want to create an engaging community for all of our Latino customers, whether they prefer English or Spanish, and whether they are in California, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil or elsewhere in the world.”
A prominent promotion running on the Sears Latino Facebook page, for example, is a bilingual Spanish-English ad co-sponsored by Sears and Whirlpool Corp. that encourages consumers to “Like” SearsLatino by offering them a chance to win a top-load washer and matching dryer. “Pon que te gusta SearsLatino e ingresa para tener la posibilidad de ganar!” the ad says. Or in the English version in the same ad: “Like SearsLatino and enter for a chance to win!”
The Sears-Whirlpool sweepstakes, which launched July 25, had garnered 14,000 Likes by Aug. 3. Sears and Whirlpool plan to launch another Facebook promotion Sept. 9 that will award a new set of kitchen appliances to the person who submits the “comfort food” recipe that wins the most Facebook fans.
In another effort on its SearsLatino Facebook page launched this week, “Mama Back to School,” Sears provides product images and information on coordinated back-to-school outfits, including apparel and backpacks.
On Twitter, Castro and others have engaged in dozens of tweets in both English and Spanish via @SearsLatino, including several in which Castro promotes the retailer’s new Latino social networking efforts. “Glad 2 b recognized as 1 of few,” he tweeted in a response to a consumer who had posted to Twitter about the lack of Spanish product pages offered by other online retailers. Sears is encouraging its employees to join in the @SearsLatino tweets and asking employees to invite their friends and families to participate, a spokesman says.
The Facebook and Twitter efforts are producing good feedback from customers, Sears says. "We are seeing a positive response from the Latino community," the spokesman says.
The social marketing efforts complement Sears’ long-standing strategy of offering a Spanish-language version of its e-commerce site, which it introduced a decade ago. Sears introduced a bilingual e-commerce site last year targeted at consumers in Puerto Rico that offers SKUs not available on its U.S. site.
Sears is targeting a segment of the U.S. population that is growing rapidly, but is not entirely homogeneous. The 2010 U.S. Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, representing 16.3% of the total U.S. population. Use of the Internet varies widely among different segments of the Hispanic population, however, with those who don’t speak much English least likely to be online, according to a report released earlier this year by the research organization Pew Hispanic Center, “Latinos and Digital Technology 2010.” The report (which uses the terms Latinos and Hispanics interchangeably) notes that, as of 2010, 65% of U.S. Hispanics were online, compared with 66% for blacks and 77% for whites.
Among U.S.-born Latinos, however, 81% were online as of 2010, compared to only 54% of U.S. Latinos born outside the United States. And among U.S. Hispanics whose dominant language is English, 81% were online, compared to 74% of bilingual Hispanics and 47% of Hispanics whose dominant language is Spanish.