By Laurel Wentz | AdAge.com
More U.S. Hispanics use the Internet to make final decisions about brands than their general market counterparts do, according to the third annual AOL/Roper Hispanic Cyberstudy.
Released this morning, the study indicates that Hispanics are rapidly catching up online with the general market and are surpassing non-Hispanics in areas like listening to and downloading music and instant messaging. And even English-speaking Hispanics take notice of online ads in Spanish.
Home broadband use
Slightly more Hispanics—52%—who use the Internet at home have a broadband connection, compared to 50% of the general online population. The high speed connection facilitates activities like listening to music (55% of Hispanics compared to 41% of the general population) and downloading music files (55% compared to 41%).
“The broadband percentage is extremely surprising,” said Mark Lopez, publisher of AOL Latino. “In my mind it’s a watershed moment. A lot of people believe Hispanics are not there yet in using the Internet as part of their everyday lives.”
Behavior is changing rapidly. In this year’s survey, 69% of respondents said they go online to learn about features and benefits of specific brands before making a purchase. That’s up from 61% just a year ago. And 63% go online for advice on which brands to buy, up from 56% in last year’s survey. Finally, 70% regard the Internet as the best source for comparing prices, a big leap from 59% last year. In a comparison with general market consumers, 63% of online Hispanics surveyed use the Internet for information to help them decide which brand to buy, versus 52% of the online general population.
Online 9.2 hours a week at home
In the last six months, 14% of Hispanic online consumers installed an Internet connection at home, compared to just 7% of the general population, according to the survey. Hispanic respondents spend 9.2 hours a week online at home, compared to 8.5 hours for the general online population.
Roper surveyed 603 Hispanic online subscribers by telephone in January and February 2005, as well as 301 Internet users from the general population. Many respondents said they would spend even more time online with more Spanish language content; two-thirds said it’s important to have Spanish content online. Interestingly, 30% of Hispanics surveyed who say they speak English and Spanish equally well agreed with the statement that they “pay more attention to ads when they’re in Spanish than when they’re only in English.”
The popularity of instant messaging offers insight into the fluidity of language for many Hispanics. Not only are Hispanics somewhat more likely to use instant messaging ó 59% of online Hispanics compared to 48% of the general online population—but 20% instant message mostly in Spanish, while 34% say they do so just about equally in English and in Spanish.
AOL’s Mr. Lopez, born in Spain but a U.S. resident for the last 20 years, says he usually sends his instant messages in Spanish. And his bilingual four-year-old son already uses a computer, in both Spanish and English, he said.
Spanish vs. English
Other research, including People en Espanol’s Hispanic Opinion Tracker, indicates that the Spanish-dominant lag in Internet usage behind bilingual Hispanics or those who prefer English. Although that may be partly due to some immigrants’ lower education levels, English-language tools can also hamper Internet use. Users can email or instant message in Spanish, for instance, but the instructions on how to do so are often in English.
“We’ll do more music and entertainment content, and we plan to take a lot of our tools and make them bilingual,” Mr. Lopez said.