Multicultural Special Report: Q&A with Kang & Lee’s Saul Gitlin
If you’re actively targeting Asian-Americans, you need to be able to attract and service them online. This market indexes higher than the general population in weekly Internet usage. To get a better perspective on how best to communicate with Asian-Americans via the Web, Target Marketing spoke with Saul Gitlin, executive vice president of strategic services and new business at Kang & Lee Advertising, a multicultural marketing consulting and communications agency that specializes in reaching Asian-American markets.
Target Marketing: How actively do Asian-Americans use the Internet?
Saul Gitlin: There have been many studies that have looked at Asian-American use of technology and the Internet. All these sources point to the same conclusion: Asians are early adopters of technology. They’re the most likely to have computers at home. They also are mature users of the Internet as defined by how long they’ve been online, their frequency of going online, how much time they spend online and their propensity to research products, purchase products, and conduct financial transactions online.
For example, the Cultural Access Group 2005 Asian American Market report shows that 70 percent of Asians have Internet access at home. When we look at weekly Internet usage, Asians are the highest, using the Internet 18 hours a week, followed by Hispanics with 16 hours a week, African-Americans at 14 hours a week, and only 12 hours a week for Caucasians.
TM: How important is it for marketers to adapt their sites to service Asian-American customers?
SG: When we look at our top Asian-American populations in the country, we know they exhibit a [strong] preference to consume and communicate in media in their native languages. However, in many cases, because Asians are highly educated, they also are competent in English. So while Asians are heavily using Asian-language sites, they also are going to English-language sites.
I think it really comes down to one of the basic tenets of why multicultural marketing is valuable. If a marketer decides to customize a Web site for a particular language spoken by an immigrant group … or goes a step further and actually builds in more cultural elements to the site in terms of design and functionality—it becomes the difference between putting a general Web site out there in English and hoping diverse groups will come and use it and … sending what we call a hand-engraved invitation to [ethnic] populations to use the site.
That said, there are segments of the Asian population that are much more comfortable [communicating] in their native languages. So, for a certain portion of [marketers’] potential [audience], building in language-appropriate content may be the difference between access and no access.
TM: How should marketers construct their sites to attract and retain Asian-American customers?
SG: If it’s a content site, it’s about making it accessible through language and delivering content that’s relevant. … If it’s an e-commerce site, you need to be offering relevant products and services, which will vary per product category. Again, it’s about access, language and products.
The other thing to realize is that for an audience like the Asian population, which largely is an immigrant audience, sometimes you may need to provide more information to explain a brand, company or a product that might be taken for granted by the general audience. For example, Asians are very good about evaluating investments and other financial opportunities and products. But, in this country, we have some products that may not exist with the same names overseas. An example is a mutual fund. Around the world there are variations on what a mutual fund product is, and it’s not called a mutual fund everywhere. So … if you put up a site targeting Asian immigrants about mutual funds, you might need more explanation about what this product is and how it works. It’s not just about language translation. It’s also about what content [you include] and how much content you provide.
Saul Gitlin can be reached at email@example.com.