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    Hispanic 360: Listening and Communicating With Latino Customers

    Successful Hispanic retailing requires a passionate, enthusiastic relationship with consumers, based on understanding their culture and values.

    By Mehgan Belanger

    LAS VEGAS -- The opportunity retailers have by accessing their local Hispanic community is undeniable—the group will account for $1 trillion in spending power by 2010. Understanding the need to capture the attention of this consumer group, attendees from all retail channels gathered here for the fifth annual Hispanic Retail 360 Summit to learn and connect to find ways to harness that opportunity.

    On the first day of the conference, attendees viewed four leading Hispanic-focused retailers in the Las Vegas market—grocer La Bonita, Mariana’s Supermarket, electronics retailer Best Buy and value grocer Food 4 Less, a Kroger chain.

    Later that day, Best Buy employees took the stage for the keynote presentation, showing their efforts to connect with Hispanic consumers both at the store and in their homes. Teresa Iglesias-Solomon, vice president, Hispanic Initiative for Best Buy, began the presentation by highlighting Best Buy’s three-step process to connect with Latino customers and build relationships:

    -- Invite Latinos into stores through efforts such as community events and involvement, and social networking;

    -- Engage the customer with a passion to understand their needs; and,

    -- Fulfill their experience with services such as its Geek Squad technical team and bilingual signage and store associates.

    Jackie Rodgers, territory five marketing manager for the Hispanic Initiative in Chicago, discussed how Best Buy connects with Hispanic shoppers through sponsorships and events they are passionate about. One of the ways the electronics chain does this is through its sponsorship of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire. In all 52 Best Buy stores in the Chicago market, large banners illustrate the sponsorship of the team. Rodgers called these signs a "conversation starter," and said, "We share passion for the sport. Employees notice customers looking at the sign, and can start conversation. It’s not about selling, it invites community interaction."

    Beyond connecting with consumers through their interests, Best Buy also ensures its store level staff can communicate and listen to its customers by hiring bilingual employees, and offering Spanish language training. Since Hispanic spending will soon reach $1 trillion, it was imperative Best Buy capitalize on that opportunity, said Ronee Wyatt, territory three Hispanic field support, Texas.

    "We made sure we have enough bilingual employees," she said, noting the retailer also offers training in Latino cultural tips so associates can better understand and connect with customers. In addition, Best Buy offers a one-year license to access the language learning software Rosetta Stone, so associates can learn Spanish on their own time, Wyatt said.

    Beyond connecting and being able to communicate with Hispanic customers, Best Buy associates are also given the opportunity to listen to customers’ needs and address them, explained Marco A. Orozco, territory two marketing manager, Hispanic Initiative, Southwest U.S. and Hawaii. In one store in Las Vegas, employees continually heard customers asking for GPS devices with software for other countries, and now the location advertises that it offers such products. The location also moved its Latin music section from the back of the store to the front, after Hispanic consumers repeatedly asked where it was located. As a result, sales for that section of music increased.

    "Our authentic voice is the connection to the customer. Employees are the heart of Best Buy," said Orozco, noting the associates’ connections with consumers are also relayed in the brand’s commercials, which feature real store associates telling true stories of helping customers, rather than scripted commercials with actors.

    Concluding Best Buy’s presentation was Christine Webster Moore, vice president, .com business initiative, who noted: "The team is proud of the work we've done. We’ve made some nice progress since last year, but we aren’t done."

    Looking ahead, Best Buy wants to become more fluid in its thoughts about Latino relationships, offer more creative ways for purchasing at Best Buy and dig deeper into social media, she said.

    "We are authentically committed to serving Latino customers, despite the economy," she said, adding the economy is causing other companies to cut back on initiatives, which may negatively impact the customer experience, but Best Buy will "honor the difference [between Hispanic and non-Hispanic customers] when difference matters, and when it does not, make Best Buy a world class experience."

    The day concluded with a $5,000 check presentation from Anheuser-Busch to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

    Hispanic Retail 360 continues through Aug. 11, and is hosted by Convenience Store News, Progressive Grocer and The Nielsen Co. Presenting sponsor Coca-Cola is joined by other Hispanic Retail 360 sponsors including Geoscape, Café Bustelo, Anheuser-Busch and Western Union.

    By Mehgan Belanger
    • About Mehgan Belanger

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