Es oficial: In 2015, the U.S. became the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking country, following only Mexico. There are more native Spanish-speakers in the U.S. than there are in Spain, according to a study released by the Instituto Cervantes in Spain.
The number of native Spanish-speakers in the U.S. has only continued to grow since this figure became fact; and seeing as ecommerce in the U.S. currently represents a $500 billion market, with ecommerce constituting over 11% of total American retail sales in the last year, it’s safe to say that making ecommerce more accessible to America’s 50 million-plus native Spanish speakers is likely to be a sales-savvy endeavor.
The U.S. retail landscape isn’t known for being particularly multilingual-friendly. In fact, only 2,45% of U.S.-based ecommerce sites are available in more than one language.
Of these, about 17%—the highest percentage for a single language pair—are in English and Spanish, followed by 16% available in French and 8% available in German. The 17% of multilingual American e-merchants who have made the move to bilingual Spanish sites have already caught onto an important consumer base.
¿Cómo se hace esto? How should you go bilingual?
The U.S. is, unfortunately, somewhat behind the rest of the world in terms of going multilingual online. The general logic among American business-owners seems to reflect the country’s real-life linguistic landscape: English comes first, and other languages aren’t prioritized.
It may seem like the playing field isn’t oriented in your favor, if you are currently focused on doing business in the U.S. via an English-language site. But creating a Spanish version of your website is a pretty surefire way to increase its visibility on the American web—and, eventually, to increase your resulting sales on the U.S. market.
Making your store bilingual—and really reaching a bilingual audience—takes more than just putting it through a round of Google Translate.
That’s why we’ve rounded up a few of the big reasons translating your store to Spanish is promising for your margins—and how you can best adapt your multilingual strategy to each reason.
Speak English, search Spanish: the bilingual American does both.
Even if most of America’s tens of millions of native Spanish-speakers speak fluent English in practice, many prefer to keep their device interfaces in Spanish. This means that a lot of bilingual Americans may regularly interact in English, but keep their browser settings—on their phones, tablets, and computers—in Spanish.
Data from Google even shows that over 30% of media on the U.S. internet is consumed by browsers who use Spanish and English interchangeably, be it in their messaging/social habits, searches, or page-viewing.
1. Optimize your multilingual SEO for Spanish
Google and other search engines pick up on what language a user has their browser/device set to, and will adjust its ranking algorithm to favor content in that language.
The takeaway here: your SEO may be suffering in the U.S. if your site isn’t available in Spanish. You pretty much have everything to gain—and nothing to lose—by translating your site to Spanish if the U.S. is one of your bigger target markets.
And if you want to go the extra mile and start securing a top spot on the Spanish-language American market, you should also pay attention to your Spanish-language SEO (Weglot automatically takes care of this whole step for you). Keeping your SEO score up in both languages means going further than simply making your store user-friendly to Spanish-speakers: it notifies search engines that you’re available in Spanish, and more readily connects your content to potential customers.
2. Keep an eye on your Spanish-language metrics
Once you’ve translated your store, you’ll want to track your performance on the Spanish-language versions of search engines and other agglomerate sites where your business is present.
Google Analytics allows you to track what language visitors are looking at your site in, as well as how they found your site (via a search engine, via Google itself, via a backlink on another site, etc.). If you’re using Google Analytics (and you probably should be—its free version has pretty much everything a small or medium-sized business could need, and it’s got a lot of useful features), all you need to do is open the “Geo” tab in your admin space, and check out the “language” statistics:
American Spanish-speakers are super-online
Google’s own insights have the answers: 66% of U.S. Spanish-speakers claim to give thought to ads they see online.
The same research study shows that Spanish-English bilinguals are big ecommerce customers: Google cites a recent Ipsos study which found that 83% of Hispanic American mobile Internet users use their phones to check the online sites of stores they’ve visited in person, sometimes in order to get product info while in the physical store.
It’s only logical that, if one of these shopper’s browsers is set up in Spanish, they’re more likely to get around your online store with ease if your site’s in Spanish, too.
Your multilingual marketing strategy, then—in terms of both your outbound ads and your own site content—is bound to benefit from going bilingual. There are, of course, several important factors to take into account when targeting the U.S.’s Spanish-speaking audience.
1. Multilingual audience, multicultural content
Anyone who grows up bilingual knows: having more than one language running around in your head generally implies having more than one set of cultural references in there, too—feeling at home in more than one culture is part of the package.
This is no less the case for bilingual Hispanic Americans, who interact as fluidly and regularly in English as in Spanish.
While public service campaigns—such as this one against predatory lending practices, launched by the City of New York—usually have a straightforward message to get across, and can therefore look essentially identical in English and Spanish, marketing a product to sell can require a bit more nuance.
That’s why a lot of advertisers slightly modify their ad campaigns—going as far as to create specific Spanish-language versions of ads, using different actors/models, color palettes, slogans, and scripts/copy than the English-language version.
Payless ShoeSource, a discount shoe store in the U.S., was known for tailoring its TV and online ads to Hispanic customers, sometimes launching campaigns entirely created for the Hispanic market and diffusing them via channels more likely to be frequented by Hispanic users than anglophone ones.
This strategy—the creation of Hispanic-specific campaigns entirely separate from English-language ones—has numbers to back up its effectiveness.
Advertising tech firm ComScore compiled data quantifying the impact of several different types of ad campaigns: campaigns conceived exclusively in Spanish and for the Spanish-speaking market, campaigns originally conceived in English (for the general U.S. majority public) and “adapted” to the Spanish market for their Spansh-language “version,” and campaigns where text was simply translated to Spanish or dialogue dubbed into Spanish from the original English.
The results indicate the manifest preference that Spanish-language viewers had for the campaigns initially conceived for their market (the first type).
ComScore’s “lift in Share of Choice” metric refers to the percentage-point increase in “Share of Choice,” a measure of the percentage of customers (within a study sample) who rank a certain brand or campaign as their most-preferred compared to one or more similar brands/campaigns.
The ComScore graph above doesn’t lie: Spanish-speaking American customers are more likely to relate to, and ultimately prefer, campaigns that are constructed from the get-go in Spanish, with a Spanish-speaking audience in mind.
What can you learn from this, as an online retailer looking to break into the U.S. Hispanic market? One thing in particular: adapting your content is the least you can do—and conceiving Spanish-language-market-specific media and copy is even better.
The same Google study that determined the 66% responsiveness rate among Hispanics to online ads also brings us some insight into the specific cultural elements that resonate with this particular community: it’s been shown that “food, traditions, holidays, and family” are the most likely to incite feelings of affinity in Hispanic-American milieus.
2. Choose the right channels
Since the native-Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. is so substantial—and growing—there’s good news for brands with an interest in this market: an entire ecosystem of Spanish-language media thrives throughout America, from TV channels to radio stations to, of course, websites.
ComScore’s aforementioned study also confirmed that Spanish-language online ads perform better than TV and radio ads these days, in terms of impact: quality online ads in Spanish received higher Share of Choice scores than radio and/or TV ads for the same test brands/campaigns.
According to data from BuiltWith.com, 1.2 million of U.S.-based websites are available in Spanish. Out of over 120 million site domains in the U.S., that’s barely 1%. If you take into account the high level of Internet activity among Spanish-speaking Americans, there seems to be a dearth of content on the web tailored to them. Spanish-language online content—be it websites or outbound ad campaigns leading to websites—is not proportionate to the number of Spanish-language users.
There’s clearly an opportunity for expansion in the language department—and a highly-connected Hispanic community to engage with.
3. Optimize your outbound multilingual advertising strategy
We’ve already discussed optimizing your Spanish-language SEO for devices set to Spanish as the default language. The next step is optimizing your outbound communication to the Spanish-speakers using these devices.
Your best bet when launching a bilingual business in the U.S. is to work on each campaign—the English- and Spanish-language versions—with native speakers who know and understand the associated cultures.
The process of transcreation, which goes beyond “adaptation” in its simplest form—word-for-word translation—requires thinking about how to transmit the same message within a different cultural context; so, for our purposes, how to sell a product with the same effectiveness to both anglophone-American and Hispanic-American audiences.
It takes a lot of thinking and planning for transcreation to be successful, including knowing the nuances of your target audience and understanding what elements of the campaign need to be conceived from the ground up for a Spanish-speaking audience.
4. Don’t let your multilingual website disappoint
You can inondate Univision with commercials, push your ads on El Sentinel’s online edition, or simply optimize your Google Adwords strategy to better reach Hispanic consumers; but none of this will actually help you convert a Spanish-language audience unless you deliver on what your ads promise. This means actually offering a top-notch browsing experience for your Spanish-language users.
Globalization-oriented content creation firm Lionbridge has done a great deal of research on social media trends and general media engagement within the U.S. Hispanic community; one thing they recommend is to be consistent with your Spanish-language marketing strategy.
In other words, make sure you can follow through for your potential Spanish-speaking customers: this means, for example, offering Spanish-language customer service if you already offer it in English—and also making sure your web presence is Spanish-accessible.
Design for diverse audiences:
Technically speaking, it can be pretty difficult to build a multilingual website. You have to take into account changes in your site design, since switching to a new language will impact your page layout: switching from English to Spanish means literally changing the words displayed on the page, which can have an effect on the length of paragraphs, headings, and other text-containing modules.
Depending on what site-building platform you’re using, there are always a few tips and tricks (we’ve got a few on Squarespace, Webflow, and WordPress up our sleeve) to making your page layout more multilingual-friendly—so, for our purposes, to make sure all your page design elements adapt fluidly to the text display in both Spanish and English.
Put yourself in the user’s shoes:
Talking site design also means talking user experience: essentially, how the user feels and reacts when navigating through a digital environment, i.e. your website. In our experience, we’ve managed to compile quite a few tips for improving your multilingual user experience as well—this may include ensuring your visual media (images/videos) are presented in the viewer’s language (we can help with that), as well as forms, popups, and other experience-enhancing elements you might add to your site.
Don’t let language be an obstacle:
Even if you are not a native Spanish-speaker yourself, there are ways to make sure your site’s Spanish version is just as appealing and on-brand as your English one.
Weglot is an especially apt solution to help you in this department, since you can order professional translations for your Spanish site (and any other language, if ever you decide to expand further) directly from your dashboard. Having a Spanish-native translator look over your site will only improve your chances of successfully tapping into the Hispanic-American market.
From “untapped and underserved” to the Spanish-English bilingual boom
Translating your website to Spanish, while simultaneously making sure its SEO is maintained on Spanish-language search engines and updating some of the translated version’s content to speak more potently to a Spanish-language audience, is the surest way to truly make your way onto the bilingual American online market.
You can do all of these with Weglot, no matter what platform your site is built or hosted on. From image and video replacement between languages to translation customization, you can build your Spanish-language content from the bottom up without losing your English-language site’s brand identity and ethos—or a second of time that could be spent doing other things!