CVS Faces Uphill Battle with New Spanish-Language Website
In launching a Spanish language version of its website, CVS is attempting something that only Best Buy has been able to pull of, successfully launch and support a robust Spanish language e-commerce site in the long run.
Supporting a large Spanish language website is difficult because they are expensive and the market for them is relatively small. According to Google, the new CVS Spanish website consists of 67,000 pages, mostly of which are product SKU’s. Creating and maintaining the content and images on all those pages is a complex, expensive and long-term proposition. In addition, a substantial marketing budget will be required to drive awareness and usage of the site. The price tag for all this can reach several million dollars per year.
Generating a return on investment
In addition to the cost, generating a return on a large scale Spanish language website is tricky because the market is relatively small. According to comScore, there are a total of 34 million Hispanics online (15% of the U.S. online market) Of those, 12.8 million are over 15 years old and use the Internet bilingually or in Spanish, representing the total U.S. market potential for the new CVS Spanish website. The following analysis shows that leading pharmacy retailers are capturing a small fraction of that potential.
Total Bilingual and Spanish Preferring U.S. Hispanic Monthly Traffic, Age 15+
1. Walgreens, 291,000
2. Drugstore.com, 187,000
3. CVS, 147,000
4. Rite-Aid, 30,000
CVS is currently the third most popular pharmacy site among Hispanics who use the Internet bilingually or primarily in Spanish with just under 150,000 monthly visitors.
Although there is significant growth potential, a key question emerges today. Can CVS generate a return on investment on a few hundred thousand website visitors? Although time will ultimately tell, insights from Best Buy’s experience can help guide CVS.
How Best Buy made Spanish language e-commerce work
Launched in 2007, Best Buy’s Spanish language website now consists of more than 1,000,000 pages. Although early metrics indicated that shoppers on the Spanish website spent more than twice as much as shoppers on the English website, the volume of orders did not meet expectations. Instead of throwing in the towel like Home Depot did shortly after launching a Spanish-language site in 2009, Best Buy thought outside the box and has succeeded as a result.
Best Buy enabled consumers abroad to purchase online when it realized its Spanish site was receiving significant traffic from outside the U.S. In addition, it recognized that Hispanic consumers were using the Spanish-language website to research products prior to purchasing them in the store. The combination of international orders and understanding the impact of the website on in-store purchases are key reasons for the long-term success of Best Buy’s Spanish-language site.
How CVS can succeed online in Spanish
This kind of thinking will be critical for CVS. In addition to recognizing the impact of the new site on in-store sales, CVS should also consider the following tips to maximize the potential of its new program.
1. Provide health education in Spanish by translating existing the Drug and Health Information Centers into Spanish. As I discussed in an earlier post, this tactic will be well received by Spanish speakers as they Have a Hard Time Finding Health Information in Spanish
2. Consider a Hispanic digital strategy for the CVS Minute Clinic as this service likely resonates with Hispanics who would benefit from quick, inexpensive and high quality medical treatment that does not require insurance
3. Provide mobile applications (or a mobile friendly web site) in Spanish, as this audience over-indexes in mobile usage
4. Ensure product descriptions are in Spanish as they are currently in English
5. Remember that English preferring Hispanics may not use the Spanish site, but will appreciate the fact that one exists
6. Develop integrated Hispanic digital programs in partnership with manufacturers who also are interested in reaching this segment
Success will not come easy, as other companies have learned. But Best Buy has proven that it is possible.
Now it’s CVS’s turn.