Market researchers classify consumers and create market segments by identifying four key areas: Shopping motivation, criteria, patterns and purchase behavior. According to research reports, Hispanics often go shopping because of their need to make a purchase rather than fulfill a social void. Studies also claim that Hispanic consumers choose where to shop based on the quality and the variety of merchandise, that is, stores they can relate to and carry the brands that they know. Experts have also noted that Hispanics are more likely to plan their purchases and shop with others rather than individually.
With the rise of the Hispanic middle class and the overall growth in population and buying power, those interested in reaching this profitable group of consumers would fail to do so under current strategies. In fact, Mulhern and Williams, professors at Penn State University, state that "retailers should not assume that descriptions of shopping behavior from individual self-reports translate into aggregate purchasing patterns in retail market areas."
This statement rings truth when comparing the results of a survey with a diverse group such as Hispanics whose shopping preferences undoubtedly vary across income, national origin, language preferences, family size, and region of the country. For these reasons, our survey sought to attain more information about a specific segment of the Hispanic population. In turn, our results should be interpreted with caution as they mostly pertain to Hispanic professionals who are in their prime age, have a medium to high income, and are homeowners.
It seems Hispanic consumers rather not sacrifice quality for price. Another respondent from the South said, "I always search for quality and price never one or the other, especially when purchasing large items like washer, dryer, computer, printers, etc."
Besides the relationship between price and quality, almost a third of the respondents to our survey claimed that comparing prices in different establishments is an important factor when making a purchase. If we consider only this particular group, some interesting demographic patterns emerge.
If we look at language of preference as a weak indicator of generational status we might be able to explain these differences. We can infer that those who are first generation and mostly speak Spanish are more likely to shop at Hispanic stores, and less like to compare different retailers. Bilingual respondents on the other hand are probably venturing beyond the Hispanic business district, and are more comparative in their shopping.
A first-generation, 54 year-old Latina gives us a good example of this life-course perspective. “When I was young, and had just started working, I could not have my fill of clothes, shoes, jewelry, all about me. Once, I got married, my priorities changed from me to the household purchases.”
When asked why the relationship between price and quality is so important to her, she replied, "I like to get my money’s worth." However, at this point in her life, she tends to be more careful in her shopping. She reveals, "I usually stop and ask myself these couple of questions, ‘Do I need it?’ and the second question: ‘How many hours of work do I have to invest to purchase the item?’ Having the answers to those questions, usually determines if I buy it or not."
As discussed, Hispanic professionals make their purchase decisions by carefully observing the relationship between price and quality. This process varies by language of preference and place of residence. Besides observing how Hispanic professionals make choices, retailers should also make note of how Hispanic professionals describe themselves as consumers and what products they are more likely to purchase. That will be the subject of our next installment.