|Automakers like Ford have been the most agressive in building comprehensive Spanish-language Web sites.
"It's very shocking," said Ron Rogowski, an analyst at Forrester Research. Even companies that have added Spanish to their Web sites may just do an overview page in Spanish, with links that send readers right back to English.
"That says, 'We know Spanish-speakers are important, but we're not going to do anything for them,'" Mr. Rogowki said.
VW's first Hispanic Web site
Some marketers see an opportunity to change that. Volkswagen of America is readying a soft launch in mid-March of its first Spanish-language Web site for the U.S. Hispanic market. In its first phase, the site will contain flash animation telling the story of each model and a Hispanic dealer locator, said Daniel Marrero, partner and creative director at Miami-based COD, Volkswagen of America's U.S. Hispanic agency.
"What's cool is that instead of VW.com/espanol, the site will be called www.agarracalle.com," Mr. Marrero said. "Agarra calle" is the Spanish-language version of Volkswagen's tagline "Drivers wanted." In a later phase by the end of the year, entertainment content will be added, he said. "That could be chistes [jokes], places to go, music channels," he said.
To drive consumers to the new site, Volkswagen's Hispanic commercials will provide the Web address. The automaker as will also place banner ads on different Web sites, like music site Batanga.com, Mr. Marrero said.
"The automotive industry knows how important this segment is," Mr. Rogowski said.
Sophisticated auto marketers
Car marketers are among the best for creating sophisticated Spanish-language Web sites and using auto channels on Hispanic portals. Ford Motor Co. has a Hispanic site on AOL Latino called "Mi Negocio" ("My Business"), with content aimed at minority entrepreneurs. Funded by Ford's
|Toyota's toyota.com/espanol also gets high marks for Spanish sensitivities and utility.
Almost 13 million Hispanics are online. Mr. Rogowski said that about 42% of the online population is Spanish dominant, 26% is English dominant and 31% are bilingual.
Better job promoting sites
Marketers who do have Spanish-language Web sites need to promote them more actively, he said. Make links to Spanish-language sites prominent; market to search engines; and link Spanish-language promotions to content, Mr. Rogowski said. For instance, Wachovia makes it easy for users to e-mail friends links to Spanish-language content. And Verizon encourages its Spanish-speaking phone reps to talk about the Spanish-language Web site's features and help determine what content the site needs. SBC does promotions at Hispanic community events that include giveaways requiring a site visit.
Best of all, Toyota offers free Latin music downloads on matrixmusica.com, created to showcase its Matrix sport wagon to Hispanics. In English and Spanish, the site lets users download popular music in return for a name, e-mail address and time frame for their next car purchase, Mr. Rogowski said. Song lists appear on an interface that looks like a car stereo and has a link to an information page in Spanish about the Matrix on toyota.com, he said.
Toggling between languages
It's also important to be able to toggle back and forth between languages. A user may begin in English but want to switch to Spanish as information becomes more complex, such as figuring out which checking account to sign up for, he said.
Even for users who start in Spanish, marketers often make them switch to English. Banks, for instance, may provide information in Spanish but force customers to change to English for transactions like transferring funds. Home improvement chains have Spanish-language content, but even one of the best, Home Depot, is still working on its Hispanic site, www.homedepotespanol. Clicking on "Comprar" ("Buy") leads to a photo of two smiling Hispanic employees in orange aprons, an apologetic explanation that they're working on converting to Spanish as fast as they can, and a link to the English-language site.