Immigrants and their children make up nearly a quarter of the American population. Immigrants are fast becoming a coveted voting bloc and valuable consumers. Businesses are trying to figure out what they buy, who they are and what they want.
Just like Americans who are born and bred in this country, immigrants buy phones and cars, take out mortgages for homes, watch TV and Netflix, order products from QVC, go to the mall and file tax returns. Immigrants work hard and put earnings back into the local and national economy. Immigrants revitalize downtrodden neighborhoods and build lasting communities. They are a vital and integral part of the schools they attend, the offices they work in, and the towns and cities they call home.
Welcome and acceptance
Immigrants want to feel welcome. If businesses want immigrant loyalty and money, they will need to focus on getting to know them and making them feel welcome.
It’s important to remember this. In debates over immigration policy, it can sometimes seem like Americans want foreign-borns to leave. But would that really be good for U.S. citizens and the businesses and communities that rely on immigrant support and tax dollars? This question is especially relevant in Cleveland, a city where the foreign-born population is dwindling in comparison to many similarly-positioned cities in the U.S.
Some of habits and customs may be different or seem weird at first. For instance, I save all of my Christmas wrapping paper and gift bags and plastic grocery bags. I love to re-gift old presents.
Culture and tradition
In Western culture, giving someone a new gift conveys friendship and warmth. But for me, when I receive a gift I love so much, I want to share it with others and pass it on. I still remember the beautiful yellow scarf my mother gave me when I received a scholarship to go to school in the U.S. I adored it. I kept it for a little bit, and then my mother gave it to her friend’s daughter.
Decades later, after having achieved so much, I still recall my mother’s generosity when I see a yellow scarf in a department store.
Immigrants are smart shoppers and consumers, too. I remember before there was a Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club that there was Sam’s Club. Every Saturday, you would go to Sam’s Club and you would see the leaders of the Middle Eastern, Russian and Chinese communities doing their shopping there. They were loyal. Now Costco has my heart. I even buy my makeup there. I could go to Sephora or Saks, but I trust Costco, and I’m loyal.
All in all, if companies want to win our loyalty and business, they need to capture foreign-borns’ hearts and minds. Companies need to find out what immigrants want and give it to them. They need to welcome us and build our trust.
Margaret Wong is the founder of W. Wong & Associates Co. LPA. She has been practicing immigration law for more than 38 years and is internationally renowned as an expert in the field.