U.S. Ethnic Groups Getting Piece Of E-Commerce Pie

As e-businesses continue to turn their attention to ethnically-oriented Web sites, some minority groups in the United States are finally beginning to reap the benefits of the Internet’s relentless expansion.

With 30 million Spanish-speaking people in the United States alone, the revenue potential of Spanish-language Web sites and services is drawing attention from Net marketers. According to a study that appeared in Hispanic Market Weekly, 32 percent of PC-owning households in the United States are Latino, and 59 percent of those PC owners use the Internet.

Additionally, according to a study conducted last year by the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, the U.S. Hispanic community brings about $383 billion (US$) in buying power to the online market.

Shopping In Spanish

While Microsoft and Mexican telcom Telmex have announced plans to provide Spanish-speakers with Internet services such as e-mail and online shopping in their own language, ePublicEye.com and La Opinion — the nation’s largest Spanish-language newspaper — launched a Spanish-translated version of ePublicEye.com’s merchant monitoring and rating service this week.

The companies will jointly promote the new service at spanish.epubliceye.com and will share the revenues.

The service allows merchants to sign up to be monitored for reliability and customer satisfaction. Reliability ratings from customers at those sites are then made available to the public on the ePublicEye.com site. The rating system measures merchant performance in areas such as management accessibility, the safety of the payment process, reliability of advertising claims, on-time delivery, customer support and other issues.

ePublicEye.com and La Opinion said that they hope to stimulate growth in the number of Spanish-language merchants online, as well as growth in online shopping by Spanish-speaking consumers. Noting that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the U.S. Hispanic population to be growing at 10 times the rate of other ethnic groups — including whites — the companies argue that the Hispanic market is “vastly under-served on the Internet.”

Keeping Pace With Microsoft

Meanwhile, Hispanic portal Quepasa.com (NASDAQ: PASA) launched its own shopping pages this week, getting a jump on the Microsoft-Telmex venture. Quepasa.com’s shopping channel, available in both English and Spanish, features merchandise from Amazon.com, eToys, Dell Computer, J.C. Penney and other brand-name merchants in 13 product categories.

Quepasa, launched last year, also provides a search engine, free e-mail, free Web page hosting, Spanish-language news feeds, worldwide weather reports and other services.

Courting Color

Other ethnic consumer groups are also attracting more attention as online merchants look for ways increase their customer bases. One new site, Bridesofcolor.com, plans to launch October 28th to provide wedding planning services and advice for African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American and Native American couples.

The Web site will also feature designer wedding gowns and tuxedos in various ethnic styles, a line of cosmetics created for brides of all nationalities, wedding planning tools and information on services such as florists and photographers

Meanwhile, two African-American e-commerce sites merged to take advantage of targeted online shopping in time for the holiday season. Atlanta, Georgia-based GlobalMECCA, Inc. bought a majority stake in Cushcity.com and plans to re-brand the Cushcity.com shopping site with both names and expand its offerings of African-American gifts and other items.

GlobalMECCA.com said it also plans to take advantage of expected heavy traffic for both Christmas and Kwanzaa, a traditional African holiday, with unique Kwanzaa greeting cards, puzzles and other items.

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