The demographic landscape is changing in the United States, and so too in the world of retail.

Traditional marketing evolved over decades to engage a number of diverse nationalities. But the number of nationalities comprising Latinos, Asians and other minorities, as well as multiracial Americans is growing and expanding.

Business as usual will not be as effective as it once was. The term "melting pot" has never been as apropos in the United States as it is today. Latinos alone now encompass 20 percent of the population, and will be as much as 30 percent in another generation. Asians and other minorities, as well as multiracial Americans, are becoming more prominent as well.

The Latino population growth is well-recognized among marketers. It has spurred a lot of conversation recently on the importance of devising new marketing strategies to attract the Latino customer.

The figures below, provided in a new white paper by Marketealo entitled Top 10 tips to size up the Latino growth opportunity for your business, reflects the status of Latinos. By extension, these figures could also represent other growing and expanding groups:

  • Unacculturated: The first generation comprises about 41 percent. They have recently arrived in the U.S., primarily speak their native language and follow their cultural traditions.
  • Bicultural: The second generation makes up about 44 percent. They were either born in the U.S. or have lived here for several years. They are comfortable, speak both their native language and English and are loyal to their cultural traditions.
  • Acculturated: The third generation is currently around 15 percent. These people have been born here or lived here for 10 years or more. They prefer English and follow few or no cultural traditions.

But hold onto your hat. Before you jump on this marketing bandwagon, let's dig a little deeper. Marketing and advertising efforts do need to be different, but they also need to strike a balance between your steady consumers of today and the evolving consumers of tomorrow.

Understand your market

The current hubbub about marketing to Latinos is great, but there is more to consider.

Hope Yen of the Associated Press reports in Census: White majority in U.S. gone by 2043 that "the fastest percentage growth is among multiracial Americans, followed by Asians and Hispanics." She says that "for the first time, America's racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group" and "almost 24 percent of the population is under age 18."

There are many first-generation ethnic minorities and will continue to be, but within a few years it is safe to assume that the percentages will change. Second- and third-generation groups are quickly becoming the norm.

Along with demographics, there are two other equally significant changing population trends that are impacting the market, as described in 3 major market forces changing the pet business customer. One is the changing ages of the customer and the other is a change in lifestyle, strongly influenced by the Internet.

The composition of the market in your area determines which forces will most directly affect your business. Don't assume that the market you are serving is without investigation.

From the latest census information, you can estimate the current income, age and ethnicities of your community. Armed with that you can do a rough projection of what your customer base will become based on the changing population trends.

The Latino influence

The Latino influence in the marketplace is definitely dramatic. Clarkson states, "Latinos are today's Super Trendsetters, rapidly becoming the most influential voice in business and politics." They enjoy shopping, and Clarkson describes it as "fun, not a chore."

He also says they are "avid online shoppers" that are digitally savvy in using the mobile Internet and smartphones, and that "most Latinos belong to a social network."

Arturo Nava, in his article Innovating Under The Latin Influence, describes the Latino experience as "a world full of life that is stunningly beautiful, flavorful and passionate" and says it is "creating a gold mine of potential innovation opportunity."

According to Clarkson, the Latino influence offers "some of the most fascinating, beautiful and flavorful inspiration in the world, and most Americans love it if they have experienced it." From my own experiences, I believe this is true. Latinos are happy people, rich in family and culture, and they make us feel good.

Cross-cultural approach

Once you have an idea of who your customers are now and will be tomorrow, you can begin to think of ways to reach them. You can use a multicultural marketing approach if you have just one large emerging ethnic base, but a cross-cultural marketing approach is more appropriate for an emerging base that is mixed.

Cross-cultural marketing can be in line with more traditional marketing, but with a new focus on the attitudes of the emerging demographics. Continue to focus on the needs of existing customers, but also begin to focus on the attitudes of the emerging younger market.

Exploring marketing from the cultural perspective of Latinos can then be extended into the cross-cultural community. Clarkson suggests the Latino opportunity is "the opportunity to win with the mainstream consumers that are being influenced by Latinos and are adopting ... purchasing habits, beliefs and attitude."

MP Mueller also offers some good common sense basics in his article Marketing Tips for Reaching Hispanic Americans. He recommends you take time to build relationships in your community before asking for business. Then, learn the ethnic composition of your market and incorporate the languages, holidays and customs where appropriate.

Make your marketing efforts appealing to your customers both logically and emotionally. Plan events that are orchestrated with a bit of an ethnic emphasis. Smartphones and tablets are tools your customers "won't leave home without," so use them to your advantage. Gain loyalty with your digital-savvy customers by offering online coupons, cool ringtones or some other giveaway.

Small businesses will prosper in this new landscape by paying close attention to the emerging population trends. Traditional advertising along with a Web presence are "must haves." Understand your market and embrace the Latino influence, and you will be ready to develop and implement a strong cross-cultural marketing plan.