10/02/2014 11:12 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

Mi Móvil: Hispanic Consumers Embrace Mobile Technology

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Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the U.S. and have the greatest purchasing power of any U.S. ethnic group. For businesses aiming to succeed in today's economy, Hispanics represent unparalleled growth opportunities. Through the ongoing Consumer Intelligence Series, PwC performed research to better understand Hispanic consumer attitudes and behaviors in the rapidly changing media, technology, and healthcare landscape.

Hispanic consumers have adopted and embraced mobile technology at an equivalent or greater extent than non-Hispanics across a wide variety of activities. Among Hispanic consumers who use mobile devices, smartphone and tablet ownership is similar, but frequency of mobile device usage skews higher among Hispanic consumers across a wide array of activities. There appear to be several key reasons for the Hispanic propensity toward mobile device usage:

• More mobile population: In qualitative discussions, Hispanic consumers perceive themselves as a more mobile segment of the population, and therefore view mobile technology as a critical support for this lifestyle.

• Affordable and accessible technology: Hispanic consumers also report that mobile technology is appealing to them given its relative affordability. In qualitative discussions, Hispanic consumers mentioned the appeal of mobile devices as an intriguing "new toy" that is more widely available at an accessible cost in the US and therefore has caught on quickly.

• Lower-cost way to communicate: Mobile technology provides cost efficient access to communication, e.g., via vehicles like VOIP, e-mail, and social media that can help Hispanic consumers -- who have a lower average income than non-Hispanics -- avoid the comparatively higher cost and financial commitment of traditional phone and Internet plans. The low-cost communication benefits of mobile are especially important to staying in touch with large families and friends, some of whom may be located internationally.

• Cost effective entertainment: Through streaming and downloading content, especially from free sites, mobile technology provides access to a full complement of video entertainment (including Spanish language, as desired). This can help avoid more costly traditional service plans.

• A new level of capability: Mobile technology provides Hispanic consumers with a greater means to access critical information, e.g. about healthcare and insurance providers, which can help them better adapt and thrive in American society.

• Healthcare and Health Insurance: Hispanic consumers rely on information garnered via mobile technology more often than non-Hispanics for similar reasons mentioned earlier: cost efficiency and access. They tend to use both information obtained from the Internet and from social media more often than non-Hispanics. Part of the reason for this may be cost consciousness and willingness to go outside of more traditional healthcare providers for their needs. In fact, some Hispanic consumers would rather cross borders to seek care and rely on family in their home countries to help them access affordable medications. Here, the ability to communicate internationally in a cost effective manner is another advantage of mobile technology.

• Privacy concerns: Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers both have significant concerns with sharing personal information. Hispanic consumers report that the need for trust is central to their cultural acceptance. They tend to be very cautious, especially because they are often in a new country, and are often concerned that giving out too much information can be detrimental, such as with insurance premiums. To this extent, they want to know how any personal information they provide will be used and have a desire to control how much information they share. More than non-Hispanics, they are reluctant to give out any information at all, regardless of the reward in providing it.

• One size does not fit all. The Hispanic population is diverse in terms of home countries, length of time/number of generations in the U.S., geographic disparity, and age and family makeup differences. Companies need multiple customized strategies for different ethnicities and generations.