Posted by: thinkeak | September 22, 2009

Lack of minority content in Corporate Websites?

September 22, 2009
By Kristin A. Snyder

Are companies catering to the minority markets through their websites? Minorities and their spending power in the United States is the highest it has ever been and continues to increase. This blog will look at three Fortune 100 companies’ websites to determine if they utilize this medium to speak directly to any minority groups.

Finding three Fortune 100 companies that had specific sections designed for African-Americans, Hispanics or Asian Americans proved to be a difficult task. Some Fortune 100 companies did not have any sections dedicated to a single ethnic minority group, or if they did, it was difficult to locate on the company’s homepage. Ford Motor, Bank of America, and United Health care all had some sort of ethnic content, which one did the best job of adapting its site to incorporate minorities?

Marketers need to relate to ethnic groups and incorporate specific messages directly for that group, understand cultural needs, spending habits, and lifestyle. “Innovative marketing methods, like lifestyle marketing, are gaining popularity with ethnic marketers as it enables them to position and market their products around customers’ lifestyles”

Ford Motor’s created an alliance with American Online with the Mi Negocio web site which is designed for Hispanic small business owners, featuring live chats, in-person forums and informative article from Fortune Small Business and Business 2.0. Ford has been committed to offering products and services that aim to help the U.S. Hispanic Community to grow. One would assume that commitment is true, it would be reflected in its corporate and brands websites with either a button to click through to Mi Negocio or a full Hispanic oriented dedicated site about its product line. However, when visiting the Ford.com there are not any special page sections for the Hispanic market until you start clicking through pages into the individual vehicle brand sites: Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and Volvo. Ford and Lincoln consumers can choose to view a limited selection of pages that are in Spanish by clicking the tiny and hard to find “en espanol” button on the top right hand corner of brand page. After one or two clicks the consumer is directed back to the English version pages. This could be frustrating to the Hispanic consumer that is looking for content information in Spanish. More interesting is that, Mercury and Volvo brand sites do not even provide Spanish language pages as an option. Ford has been successful at building relationships with the Hispanic market outside of its own website, specifically outside the US boarders, but needs to fully integrate the marketing tactics by taking additional steps to tie those relationships back into its corporate site and/or brands websites.

Bank of America is the No. 1 overall Small Business Administration (SBA) lender in the United States and the No. 1 SBA lender to minority-owned small businesses.” In 1991, Bank of American President Richard Rosenberg gave a speech to the Hispanic Bankers Association saying:

The U.S. Hispanic population has $171 billion in buying power. “New segments of the market are growing in influence and affluence and we have to structure our marketing to build a relationship with these groups.”

Bank of America web site offers some web pages that are in Spanish, which include the Bank of America Newsroom and the Personal banking section that features a picture of a Hispanic couple. There is also a pop-up to instantly chat with a Bank of America representative online for assistance. Yet, when personally using this feature the representative did not speak Spanish nor was there an option for a translation box. Despite Bank of America being the number one lender in minority-owned businesses, there are not any pages in the Small Business section that speak specifically to any of the minorities groups.

When it comes to speaking to the minority groups the most impressive web site that I found is United Health Care. United Health Care offers the most comprehensive minority web site that is available in five languages, along with a dedicated African American and Women’s section. Four of the languages are subcultures of Asian American that cover Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese subcultures. These four subcultures represent 63% of the Asian American population. Asian Americans have the highest household income of any ethnic subculture in the U.S. and are the most affluent and best educated. Asian-Americans are best approached as a number of subcultures based on nationality which is exactly what United Health Care has done by providing various language options. Spanish is the fifth language option on its site. In addition, United Health Care web site features sections specifically for African Americans and Women’s health. The landing page for each minority site features a picture of an individual or family that is to represent each sector.

The African American sections covers health topics that are specific to the African American Community, news and events specific towards this group, allows the consumer to find a doctor that specializes in the health needs of African Americans, and even provides scholarship opportunities for African American high school, college or graduate students interested in a career in the health care industry. If United Health Care offers content specific to each ethnic group through its various languages offered, then this site is truly a home run.

My top pick goes to United Health Care’s web site in speaking to all three-minority groups: Asian American, African-American, and Hispanic. The elements that make this site rise above the other sites are:

• It speaks to issues that affect each minority segment
• Allows consumer to find a doctor that specializes in health needs of the specific demographic
• Pictures are representative of the group United Health is speaking to.
• Unlike Ford and Bank of America, numerous in depth web pages are dedicated to each group and the consumer is not bounced back to English as they click through their web site.

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