| Nov 13, 2009 |
Affluent consumers use social media too (eHotelier)
Boh staff
By Staff

The Affluence Collaborative, a research partnership from AgencySacks and Chadwick Martin Bailey, has released results from its survey of how the affluent live online. The Affluence Collaborative offers companies who focus on the affluent consumer a unique resource combining insights, thought leadership and community.

The Collaborative survey examines online behavior and attitudes toward consumption and purchase rationale of the affluent as compared to the mass market. A portion of this study is exclusively reserved for members of the Collaborative.

"It is a main tenant of The Affluence Collaborative to translate statistics from cold numbers to relevant, actionable conclusions that will help inform our members' marketing decisions," Collaborative partner Andrew Sacks said. "Marketers are in need of up-to-date intelligence on their target now more than ever, so we conducted this first survey to take the pulse on how the affluent are surviving or thriving during this period of constant economic change."

Study results show that usage of social media is similar among the affluent and the mass market, a marked change from past data showing that the affluent have been late adopters of new technology, digital applications and online activities. Three in five of the affluent are engaged in social media platforms online and agree that social networking is lasting paradigm. Only 3% of respondents stated they were one of the first to try new applications and games on social networking sites.

As many marketers are currently feeling pressure to determine their Twitter and Facebook strategy, this pattern change in the online behavior of the affluent can help determine how to best use social media in their marketing mix. Although the affluent are using online media with as much frequency, they are less frivolous and more functional in the way they are engaged in the online world. For example, the affluent are more likely to connect with business colleagues and less likely to play games than the mass market. As the online experience becomes more important in the decision-making process, marketers can support their customers' research by providing a well-informed brand website.

The number one motivator for the affluent who need encouragement to shop is the feeling that the purchase represents a good value. About 75% of those surveyed have lost 25% of their wealth, and 70% don't consider themselves wealthy. Also, the negative attention put these days on conspicuous spending forces the affluent to evaluate whether their purchase fulfills a need or a desire.

As it has become unfashionable to spend without good reason, marketers can arm their prospective customers with a rational alibi for their purchase, enabling them to justify their spending. Marketers need to make sure customers believe they are getting a good value either in cost, quality or meaning, which must be communicated in every level of the customer's experience, especially their time spent on the brand's website. What was once discretionary wealth is no longer, making every dollar feel like it is worth much more and must be stretched to maximize return. The affluent will spend more freely when they can once again earn as they had; until then, the provision of a rational alibi can counteract their frugal mindset.

The affluent are more likely to trust their own decision-making and judgment than anyone else's. The second most powerful motivator for the affluent who need encouragement to buy is a clear understanding of the product and its quality. Accordingly, three in five respondents take time to extensively research products before buying and prefer to do product research on their own. 52% prefer to shop online to avoid dealing with salespeople; only 17% like to receive advice from professional advisors and salespeople. As they do research on their purchases, the affluent trust information found online more than twice as much as magazine and newspaper editorial. Personal internet usage is up while 33% of respondents are spending less time reading magazines. Also down was time spent with live television, radio and newspapers.

With customers more likely to do their own research than turn to sales staff for support, it is even more important to make product and service information readily available on the brand's website. The challenge is to complement this online fact-finding mission with a personal connection, fostering brand loyalty and developing the lifetime value of the customer.

Concluded in October 2009, this 23-minute online survey was completed by 300 respondents, recruited using an online panel based on household income and investable assets. The Collaborative surveyed a sampling of the mass market and the affluent, balanced on gender and age and weighted to reflect the Census Bureau distribution of affluence, including the super affluent, upper affluent and emerging affluent. Future surveys from The Affluence Collaborative will be based on a larger sample of approximately 1,000 respondents.

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