Multicultural Marketing a Game of Nuances: GMDC Study

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Retailers must pay close attention to the many nuances of the multicultural market if they are to service their ethnic customers properly, according to the General Merchandise Distributors Council Educational Foundation's latest study, released in part during the association's GM Marketing Conference held here earlier this week.

The study, "Multicultural Marketing," which will be completed this summer, provides in-depth insight into specific issues for Hispanic, African American, and Asian customer bases, as well as demographic and consumer behavior data.

"There are a lot of nuances within the multicultural market that must be addressed," said GMDC Educational Foundation executive dir. Roy White. "What we have prepared is a checklist retailers can use when planning their category management for this demographic."

White and James Wisner of Wisner Retail Marketing visited the country's top multicultural markets, including New York, Texas, Florida, and Los Angeles, to study best practices of retail operators in these areas. "There are certain characteristics that successful retailers in these markets exhibit," said Wisner. They include:

-- Culturally relevant: Retailers provide products and services that address the cultural needs of the ethnic group. "This goes beyond language to the way in which people refer to objects, or the visual imaging that is important to the culture," said Wisner. "What may be innocuous to one person may be very relevant to another."
-- Seek out those who know: They work closely with vendor partners and associations, and talk to customers.
-- Have the right products: For example, in many Hispanic markets, consumers work outdoors. Providing basic clothing and accessories for outdoor work meets a crucial need for these shoppers.
-- Focus on food: Provide items that these cultural markets make part of family meals. "Frying pans are a great example," said Wisner. "Consumers in hot climates stay away from using the oven, and use a frying pan for many meals."
-- Build family ties: "Members of multicultural markets are very family-oriented," said Wisner. "Offerings that address this have a great impact. Items such as calling cards, treats for children, and anything baby-related are important."
-- Pricing and Promotion – with a purpose: Create price alternatives within different categories. Coupons and rebates, as a rule don't do well among multicultural groups, according to the study.
-- Show you care: Examples include having a bi-lingual pharmacy, focusing on health issues specific to ethnic groups, and in-store health clinics.
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