Viva Movil by Jennifer Lopez has already begun to sell smartphones, tablets… (Ethan Miller, Getty Images )
Jennifer Lopez: actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, and now, mobile phone mogul.
The entertainer announced Wednesday that she had teamed up with Verizon Wireless to launch a new mobile brand, including retail stores, aimed at the fast-growing Latino population.
Viva Movil by Jennifer Lopez has already begun to sell smartphones, tablets and Verizon wireless plans on its own website. More than a dozen stores in cities with large Latino populations including Los Angeles and Miami are expected to be announced in the next few weeks, with the first to open June 15 in New York.
In an interview with The Times, Lopez said she wanted to create a Latino-oriented wireless experience built in an "organic and natural and honest way."
"It was a no-brainer to finally cater to an overlooked segment of the population that has emerged, to actually do something that caters specifically to them," Lopez said.
All aspects of Viva Movil's "omni-channel" approach — from store design to social content — have been developed with Latino customers in mind, she said. For instance, store employees will speak English and Spanish. Stores will be equipped with play areas for children because Latinos often like to shop together as a family, Lopez said.
Viva Movil will also offer a "unique social shopping experience" on Facebook, according to Verizon. There, consumers can get personalized recommendations, shop with friends and comment on devices.
The partnership was announced at the CTIA wireless industry trade show in Las Vegas, where Lopez, who is majority owner of Viva Movil and its chief creative officer, made an appearance to launch the brand.
"I saw great opportunities in this space for Viva Movil," she said. "As an entrepreneur, empowering the Latino community is at the core of what I choose to have my businesses stand for and exemplify."
Lopez cited "staggering" demographic statistics that showed the Latino population had grown 43% in the last five years, compared with 5% growth for non-Latinos. Latinos currently make up more than 16% of the U.S. population, and that figure is expected to grow to 30% by 2050.
The devices and plans sold by Viva Movil are the same as Verizon's, although Verizon doesn't own a stake in the new company. Customers can purchase smartphones including the iPhone 5, Galaxy S 3 and the BlackBerry Z10 and sign up for Verizon's 4G LTE network service.
In announcing the partnership, Verizon noted that Latinos are an especially important customer base for the industry and represented $1.2 trillion in buying power last year. The country's No. 1 wireless carrier cited a recent Nielsen report that showed that 75% of Latinos in the U.S. own smartphones, higher than the overall percentage of Americans who own smartphones, at 63%.
"The Latino population is 52 million strong and growing," Marni Walden, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Verizon Wireless, said at Wednesday's launch event. "And we knew that to stay on the path and deliver the best customer experience, we had to do more."
Jeff Kagan, a technology industry analyst, said the new company marked a "big opportunity" for Verizon and a new direction for the wireless industry.
"If the Latino customer can feel that a big company like Verizon understands them and can provide services and products that they can connect with, it'll help Verizon," he said.
And expect rivals to follow suit.
"Since Verizon is there, it'll be an advantage," Kagan said. "I think every other carrier will make a similar move; that's just the way the industry operates. Who and when, I don't know, but I can guarantee that you'll see other carriers follow."
Lopez launched Viva Movil with Brightstar, a global distribution and services company, and Moorehead Communications, Verizon Wireless' largest premium retailer. She will be the face of the brand and said she's been working on the partnership with Verizon for the last two years.