Spanish lessons

January 19, 2011 11:37 AM

Shoppers on the Spanish-language e-commerce site operated by Best Buy Co. spend roughly twice as much money there as do shoppers on the English-language site when measured by average order value, says Ana Grace, the retailer’s global web team site manager. The multichannel consumer electronics retailer launched the site more than three years ago, in September 2007. Best Buy is No. 10 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Best Buy had previously said that shoppers on the Spanish-language site,, had spent roughly twice as much time there as do visitors to the English-language site. That trend continues to hold, thanks in large part to the relative scarcity of detailed consumer electronics product information in Spanish on U.S.-operated e-commerce sites, says Grace. Consumers more comfortable with Spanish than English are spending more time on the site reading product specifications and other information, she says. The site’s visitor numbers also continue to increase by double-digit rates each year, though the retailer declines to offer details.  Best Buy did not release its average order value, but an Internet Retailer estimate puts the average ticket at $215, which primarily reflects orders from its English-language site.

Meanwhile, a service attached to the Spanish-language site also could help the retailer introduce international shipping options for its products, Grace says. “The site was originally designed for Spanish-preferring U.S. customers, but we found that a good proportion of the visits were coming from outside the U.S.,” she says.

Responding to that, about a year and a half ago, the retailer began enabling consumers from outside the United States—for instance, the Mexico-based parents of a college student in the United States—to order products from the Spanish site. Best Buy allows those customers from outside the United States to use a proxy billing address, one attached to the retailer’s district office in Houston, to make site purchases, which are priced in dollars because Best Buy does not offer currency conversions. Those parents, for instance, could use the Spanish-language site to pay for a laptop and then have it shipped to their son’s U.S. address or arrange for pickup from a store inside the United States. Best Buy holds the products in stores for up to eight days, Grace says.

To combat fraud, Best Buy refuses to ship products ordered via the program to known freight forwarders, she adds. Those agents or companies organize products shipments to other companies in other countries and can serve as fronts for criminals bent on selling stolen products.

Now, based on the success of that program, the retailer is considering adding international shipments, Grace says. “I think we have proven the business case,” she says.

The retailer also has learned another lesson from its Spanish-language site, one that was brought home once more over the summer: Don’t pander to Spanish-preferring shoppers. Though Best Buy had initially wondered whether Spanish-speaking shoppers would like content unique to Hispanic culture, content that differed from the English-language site, studies with consumers in Los Angeles and San Antonio have proven otherwise. “Spanish-speaking shoppers got very concerned about differences in the site offerings, even in imagery,” Grace says. “They raised concerns about discrimination.”

For instance, in response to the World Cup last year in South Africa, Best Buy sought reaction from shoppers about putting a soccer image inside one of the TV screens on its web site—much like English-language shoppers might see images of baseball or football games on the TVs offered for sale. “The response was ‘Don’t pander to me’,” Grace says. “Some people said they weren’t even into soccer. They’d rather see more Latino faces on both sites (the English and Spanish ones) and not just on one site.” Spanish-language e-mail marketing messages, however, sometimes have culturally-specific messages, though Best Buy strives to make both sites as similar as possible.

The Spanish-language site also provides benefits for customers shopping inside stores, Grace says. Shoppers can access the site inside stores via kiosks, and often do if there are no  Best Buy employees who speak Spanish. Some customers also toggle back and forth between the English and Spanish sites to make sure the deals are the same or to clarify confusing terms.

MotionPoint Corp. translated Best Buy’s product offerings and related information into Spanish  and hosts the Spanish-language site. MotionPoint, which offers similar services for a variety of industries beyond retail, uses native language speakers for the work, says Chuck Whiteman, the vendor’s senior vice president of client services.  MotionPoint can set up a foreign-language site within one to three months.




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