Hispanics have lived in the U.S. since its founding.

Today, they make up 18% of the U.S. population, and 7% of the online population aged 16-64.

They’re a young and fast-growing population – 13% of all internet users under 25 are Hispanic, and this percentage is expected to rise.

We’ve been following the U.S. Hispanic market since 2009. Throughout this time, things have progressed. For example, children born during  the Hispanic ‘baby boom’ of the 1990s have now come of age.

Younger Hispanic consumers aged less than 35 have had different life experiences to their parents and grandparents – they’re majority English-first and U.S.-born.

1. Brands don’t always need to rely on cultural references when targeting Hispanics.

On the language side, younger Hispanic consumers aged 16-34 are somewhat less likely to prefer Spanish over English in specific situations.

Although, there’s a large divide between public and private life. While Spanish is the preferred language between friends and family (25%), English dominates conversations related to tech, shopping, banking, and news (57%).

Few younger Hispanic consumers expect to speak Spanish in commercial settings.

In general, 42% of younger Hispanics say they speak equal amounts of Spanish and English at home, with 39% preferring to speak only, or mostly English.

Outside the home, 60% of the young Hispanic population speak mostly or exclusively English, which is the same as the general Hispanic online population.

They might alternate between Spanish and English language, but many younger Hispanics still make an effort to acknowledge and express their heritage in some way or other.

Identity is important to them: 44% of Hispanics under 35 say they feel more Hispanic now than they did a year ago (when referring to their values, meals and language choices) compared to 40% of the general online Hispanic population.

Compared to other Hispanic consumers, younger Hispanics (37%) are somewhat more likely than older ones to prefer advertising that reflects their culture (34%).

Hispanic cultural preferences

However, only 12% feel strongly about the need for advertising to incorporate cultural references, and 8% strongly disagree. This divide shows why marketers need to be sensitive about incorporating Hispanic cultural themes and know when to use Spanish language in their content.

Cultural sensitivity is crucial when engaging consumers based on their heritage.

Hispanic cultural identity is most salient around food (84% cite this), personal values (65%) and music preferences (53%).

Cultural links in general have recently become more important to younger Hispanic consumers. Compared with older consumers, they’re more likely to say their choices in sports, entertainment and music help them feel more connected to their heritage.

2. Brands should take an all-round approach.

In many ways, playing to the values of the Hispanic population in the U.S. is more important than language or inserting cultural references, as these attempts by brands can be seen as superficial.

U.S. Hispanics are a diverse group like any other – they mirror the overall U.S population with variances in age, gender, and income, for example, and also retain characteristics unique to their heritage.

For example, compared with the rest of the U.S. population, young Hispanic consumers are a disproportionately urban population. 46% live in urban areas, compared to 35% of non-Hispanic whites of the same age (making them 30% more likely to do so).

Only 11% live in rural areas, compared to 25% of non-Hispanic whites of the same age.

“Living in a city” isn’t a Hispanic trait. However, the places where young Hispanics live have a a natural influence over their lives as consumers and their purchase journeys.

Billboards and posters, for instance, are a much more effective driver of brand discovery among Hispanics compared with non-Hispanic whites.

15% of young Hispanic consumers view outdoor advertising as a typical source for brand discovery, compared with 8% of non-Hispanic whites of the same age.

Key takeaway: The placement of advertising can be more effective when targeting Hispanics than making references to their culture.

3. The Hispanic household is changing.

There can be a perception that Hispanic audiences are much more family-oriented than other audiences, and this partially relates to family structure: young Hispanic consumers do live in larger households on average.

While two-person households are the most common among non-Hispanic whites, three-person households are most common among Hispanics. We calculated a weighted average of 3.3 people per household, versus 2.9 per household among non-Hispanics the same age.

Even though younger Hispanics value family above the general U.S. population they value it less than the older Hispanic population.

It’s short-sighted to stereotype the entire Hispanic audience as being family-focused, as our research shows there are clear cultural shifts happening between the generations.

4. Hispanic consumers view quality differently.

46% of Hispanic internet users fall into the middle 50% of incomes nationally, but there is also a skew toward lower incomes.

15% of the online Hispanic population are in the top income category, versus 22% of non-Hispanic whites. On the other end of the spectrum, 31% are in the bottom income range, versus 25% of non-Hispanic whites.

Pessimistic views around personal finances and the U.S. economy are shaping Hispanic consumers’ more frugal outlook.

When making purchase decisions, many Hispanics rate quality as the most important factor in the equation.

The percentage is slightly higher than the general online population, with 61% of Hispanics saying they value quality, versus 57% of the total online audience who say the same.  

Price comes next, as cited by 26% of young Hispanic consumers. So for general purchase decisions, like trying to find the best deals, there is little difference between Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers’ perceptions.

Although a larger portion of Hispanic consumers rate social responsibility as a desirable brand value, the younger portion of this demographic are no more likely to pay more for sustainable or eco-friendly products than their non-Hispanic counterparts.

5. The purchase journey of Hispanic consumers.

Social networks play a greater role in purchase journeys for Hispanics.

49% cite it as a typical source of brand discovery, compared to just 41% of non-Hispanic whites their age, and 28% of the overall online population. Furthermore, 46% more young Hispanic consumers discover brands via celebrity endorsements than Hispanic consumers in older generations.

At the end of the purchase journey, next-day delivery is more important to Hispanic consumers than the online population as a whole. 40% of Hispanics say it is a key purchase driver, compared with 29% of the total online audience.

Other factors, such as easy returns, coupons and reviews, also influence the purchase journey of young Hispanic consumers.

Paying less and reducing the risks associated with buying is enticing to audiences with a higher proportion of consumers in lower income brackets.

Spending habits of Hispanics

When researching new products, there’s a slight tendency for Hispanic consumers to do less of their own research, preferring to rely on sources that incorporate the experiences of others – such as reviews, and recommendations.

We’ve already mentioned Hispanic consumers expect brands to be more socially responsible, but overall, they also possess less consumerist values than non-Hispanic whites.

In a nutshell, the key is to avoid stereotyping in communications.

Brands will resonate with this audience if they have an understanding of when young Hispanics do and don’t expect direct references to their heritage.

Young Hispanics care about their culture, but culture alone isn’t enough – a broader understanding of their attitudes and lifestyle is needed to complete the full picture.

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Erik is an Insights Content Manager at GWI. He's responsible for the production of all market, audience and insights reports, along with infographics and Charts of the Week. Before joining GWI, Erik worked as a market researcher for agencies in the UK and Denmark, and has a background in social anthropology.

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