(Photo Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alphageek/121953651#sthash.wsbIO6rU.dpuf)

In my previous post, we examined the realities behind an evolving multicultural America and the new profile and mindset of an increasingly growing segment of second and third generation Latinos. With that in mind, I would like to share some key learnings from a recent conference I attended – the Hispanic Retail 360 – which took place in San Antonio this past August. One of the talks I found particularly interesting was a panel discussion among leading independent Hispanic retailers regarding what they are doing to fully understand and attract this evolving consumer.

The following captures the experiences of retailers such as Chávez Supermarkets, Northgate González Markets, and Rio Ranch Markets on their path to success with the multicultural shopper. This roadmap can be applicable to any retailer and brand attempting to continue engaging, driving sales and building loyalty with the Latino shopper:

  • Think Bicultural – New values such as health and flavor discovery are now just as important to Hispanic shoppers as authenticity and cultural ties were in the past. “It is important to listen to customers when it comes to food and product trends, their insights may surprise you” – they stated.
  • Embrace the Global Palates of the General Market – Limiting flavor options to Hispanic vs. General Market is not a wise decision, as more and more consumers are embracing food trends from Hispanics, and shopping habits are becoming multicultural for both groups. The lines are blurring due to Latino influence on American culture, which is certainly good for business.
  • The Right Products in the Right Sizes – A tailored offering may not always be easy to achieve, but it’s the right way to go – with benefits for both brands and retailers. There was a heavy emphasis placed on the importance of retailers and brands working together to offer Latino shoppers products that respond to their needs, in the right sizes and variants, and displayed in ways that respond to their shopping habits. And we may have heard this one before, but it is important to reinforce that expanding brand offerings to Hispanics is an opportunity all brands should embrace. As Tony Rogers, now CMO at Walmart, put it once, “a hundred percent of the growth in sales is going to come from multicultural customers”.
  • Health is Top of Mind For Millennials – Even 1st or 2nd generation Hispanics are jumping on the healthy living bandwagon. This type of trend offers interesting opportunities to retailers for increased engagement and loyalty. One great example that was brought up is the Viva La Salud initiative at Northgate. The program is an integrated strategy that includes in-store bilingual signage within certain aisles all the way to content from dietitians and chefs posted online on the supermarket’s website and social media.
  • Total Shopping Experience Beats Convenience While previous generations may have leaned towards convenience and value in a hard working reality, now shopping and experience are merging due to the increased market competition as well as the societal and cultural changes of new generation Latinos. Retailers are acknowledging this shift with creative ways to engage shoppers while in-store, and also getting them to come back for more. Chávez, for example, offers a Taquería within their supermarkets – which, by the way, has an almost perfect rating of 5 stars on Yelp. According to their general manager, “the Taquerías are a tactic to grab new generation Latinos with their parents recipes.” But the tactic works beyond just that customer segment – I mean, who doesn’t fall for a great taco?!
  • Foster a Sense of Belonging A basic human need that is particularly important to Millennials is a sense of community and belonging. This is something that, per first hand experience with these retailers, is brought to life in the details. Bilingual signage and staff, for example, are important considerations. But going beyond those basics may be the difference between a one-time shopper and building a long-term relationship. That is why all these retailers highlighted the importance of investing in their surrounding communities. One example is Chávez’s Annual Carne Asada Festival (Grilled Meat Festival). The event features live music and family entertainment centered around their particular array of grilled meat recipes – a huge passion point for Latinos. This is a particularly strategic choice for Chávez, whose specialty is meat.
  • Let’s Get Digital Hispanic early adopters are leading the way in digital usage, and we must follow them where they are. From looking for offers on the Ibotta app to exchanging opinions with friends about products on Facebook, or even searching for recipes on Pinterest and Instagram, these consumers are everywhere. The digital tools and channels now available can’t be ignored just because we are activating in-store. In fact, they must be leveraged to complement the shopping experience. The recommendation here is to actually staff properly with a dedicated team of digital experts generating ideas and tactics for the digital realm.

While it all sounds simple – almost obvious – on paper, for retailers and brands out there it takes a true intent and commitment to address the multicultural audience in relevant ways, and to overcome any challenges in doing so. The retailers in this panel also acknowledged the important role that brands play in helping them create programs and activations that fulfill the particular needs of a growing multicultural shopper, and how they are looking for more of that kind of partnership. To all of the retailers and brands out there, I ask: Are you leveraging any of these strategies already? Have you taken the time to understand how your brand can better serve the multicultural shopper? How can you better connect with them? Perhaps it is time for all of us to reflect on that.