As many sectors start to recover post-COVID, the focus will be on reaching new consumers and keeping customers on board. Regardless of industry, affluent consumers¹ are a highly lucrative segment for brands and marketers to focus on.
At GWI, our research allows us to dig deeper into this audience – to uncover what makes them tick and what they value from brands. In this piece, we’ll reveal some key insights into this audience to help arm brands with the knowledge they need to effectively connect with these consumers.
If you want to unpick what would drive this audience to choose one brand over another, or dig into the growing importance of online channels, stay right where you are.
They’re highly engaged with brands and want to feel valued.
This group craves a direct connection with brands.
They want to feel like they’re “in-the-know” – like they’re part of something special.
We see glimpses of this in the way they value being part of a community built around products or services, showing the importance of involvement and developing personal relationships.
This is also reflected in their desire to be seen; 30% of affluent consumers say standing out in a crowd is important to them compared to 23% for everyone else.
Combining that with the fact they’re much more likely to describe themselves as confident, ambitious, adventurous or outgoing, we start to get a better sense of what makes this group unique.
They value brands that allow them to stand out among their peers, with 34% saying they tend to buy a premium version of a product compared to 19% for everyone else.
This group is also 48% more likely than everyone else to promote a brand if it enhances their online reputation, and 34% more likely to do so if they get access to exclusive content and services.
The key to really gaining their loyalty lies in enhancing their status and emphasizing exclusivity.
The cherry on top: 41% of this audience say they tell their friends and family about new products (25% more likely than everyone else), so they could be extremely influential voices for brands to get on side.
They love smart tech, but want to protect their privacy.
It’s fair to say this group are technophiles – a quick scan of their attitudes toward technology makes this pretty clear.
33% of affluent consumers say they buy new products as soon as they’re available compared to 16% for everyone else.
They’re also much more likely than everyone else to say they trust technology to improve their health – a promising sign for brands in the wearables space, which has seen significant growth during the pandemic. In Q2 2021, 46% of affluent consumers say they own a smartwatch/wristband, up from 36% in Q2 2020. In comparison, just 22% of everyone else owns one.
Increasingly, wearables have stepped into the realm of illness detection and disease management. Newer models from Garmin, Fitbit, and Samsung are able to track more sophisticated metrics like blood oxygen levels.
The newest smartwatch from Withings also prioritizes style as well as function, with its analogue face design combined with advanced features – a product designed with this consumer group in mind.
Affluent consumers have also taken a strong liking to other smart products.
They’re much more likely than other consumers to own a smart TV (54% vs 38%) and a smart home product (27% vs 12%). Smart home product ownership in North America is the biggest of all regions at 34%. This is likely down to the popularity of smart home assistants in this region.
While they’re keen to embrace the latest technology, they’re also taking more action to protect themselves online.
They’re more likely to implement privacy and ad-blocking measures than other consumers. For example, they’re 32% more likely than everyone else to use an ad-blocker and 35% more likely to use a private browser.
Marketers should focus on building upon this audience’s natural keenness for interaction in a way that’s not intrusive and is relevant to them. As users’ expectations continue to evolve, any brand will do well to keep transparency and user control front-of-mind in everything they do – it’s key to building brand trust.
Online channels are a must, even for traditional luxury brands.
We all know how much the pandemic accelerated ecommerce, but for affluent consumers their fondness of online channels shines through compared to everyone else.
Using GWI Zeitgeist from July, 43% of affluent consumers say their online shopping behavior has increased compared to a year ago, and 28% say this will likely increase more in the future.
Looking at their preferred way to shop paints a clear picture for why online channels shouldn’t be underestimated when reaching this group. 63% of global affluent consumers would opt to shop online vs in-store compared to 56% for everyone else.
They’re ahead of everyone else for a number of shopping-related activities online. For instance, close to half of this group have also purchased a product or service online in the past week – 10 points higher than everyone else.
This group is also engaging more with product review videos and using price comparison tools, allowing them to shop smarter online.
The luxury sector, which has traditionally focused its efforts on in-store channels, has been forced to reinvent itself in light of consumers’ changing demands.
Luxury online marketplaces like italist have over 250 independent boutiques, which allows online shoppers to purchase luxury items sold by boutiques in Milan, Florence, and Rome – at Italian retail pricing, which can be 40% lower than global averages.
During the pandemic, Harrods of London which had never closed its doors previously moved to operating completely online for the first time. Other luxury retailers like Selfridges opted for virtual personal shopping, enabling consumers to access its products and experience from the comfort of their home.
When you consider the demographics of fast-growth markets, the bulk of consumers are actually millennials. And as Gen Z’s spending power grows, having an online presence for any brand is necessary to reach these younger consumers.
For luxury brands the focus will be on ensuring their stand-out customer service and experience in-store is echoed in their digital strategy as well.
At the same time, the purpose of physical stores is being reimagined. Increasingly, bricks and mortar stores are bringing new experiences to keep foot traffic: fittings, styling consultations, pop-ups of new brands, are all reimagining the luxury retail experience.
Nordstrom, for example, boasts a beauty concierge, which includes a spa and free personal-styling sessions. Meanwhile, at Selfridges in London, there’s an “experience concierge” with a salon and wine tastings.
Social media is crucial for reaching younger groups, but there’s a growing demand to keep it real.
46% of affluent Gen Zs or millennials discover brands via social media, whether that’s through ads, recommendations, comments, or updates on brands’ social media pages.
Around one fifth of affluent Gen Zs or millennials say the option to use a “buy” button on a social network would increase their likelihood of buying a product. There’s potential there for social commerce among this group in particular.
Younger affluent consumers are more likely than everyone else their age to use social media to find products to purchase (31% vs 25%) and to use social media for inspiration (33% vs 28%).
Around 30% also follow companies and brands they purchase from on social media. Social media clearly has a big impact on brand discovery and building brand relationships. For a group that wants to be involved and have more direct relationships with brands, social provides the perfect avenue for this.
Influencers have been a crucial part of many brands’ social strategy for some time now. Yet, many consumers are experiencing influencer fatigue – something which brands need to take note of.
Increasingly, we’re seeing a move away from the aspirational influencers or celebrities to the “everyday influencer”. Two-thirds of affluent Gen Zs or millennials say they relate most to their friends or peers and 55% say they relate more to their family members on social media compared to 43% for social media stars like TikTok personalities.
To put simply: people trust those they have a personal connection with.
Younger generations expect more transparency and authenticity from people they follow. For example, 42% of affluent Gen Zs and millennial social media users say they want to see people they follow taking a stance on important issues. That’s compared to 36% of everyone else the same age.
Qualities like credibility, authority, authenticity, and trustworthiness have all become much more important for this audience since the pandemic. This is also reflected in their attitudes toward influencers, where they want them to be more open when they use filters on their photos.
47% of affluent Gen Z s and millennials say credibility is a more important quality in the people they follow on social media since the pandemic – 31% more likely to say this than everyone else their age.
The rise of “genuinfluencers” is serious business. Lavish backdrops and aspirational product placements are replaced with people that take a stance on important issues and are open about their own struggles or who have a genuine passion for a particular topic.
Gucci worked on a campaign with retired fisherman Gerald Stratford, who loves gardening and spends most of his time living his passion. After amassing a number of followers on Twitter and Instagram thanks to his impressive knowledge of vegetable-growing and his uplifting spirit, the luxury brand chose Stratford to be the star of its video shoot for its Off The Grid 2021 collection – the brand’s more environmentally-friendly focused collection.
For brands and marketers looking to connect with affluent consumers, it’s important to double down on involving them in the process as much as possible. That could be something as simple as getting their opinion on upcoming product launches or designs or hosting member-only events.
This group is 29% more likely than everyone else to advocate for their favorite brand if they have a personal one-on-one connection.
They’re also much more likely to promote a brand to others if they have insider knowledge about the brands or its products. This all boils down to their need for exclusivity and status.
Attracting the affluent: the key lessons
For brands looking to reach this lucrative group, it’s important to find ways to make them feel special or valued that’s unique to your brand. For younger consumers especially, brands shouldn’t overlook the importance of digital channels as more people opt to shop online.
Consumers’ demands are changing. Now’s the time to use data-driven insights to better understand and reach your target audience.
¹The affluent consumers audience has been created using GWI’s socio-economic segmentation, which ranks respondents based on their answers to questions relating to their lifestyles, professional lives, and economic circumstances. This audience scored most highly across questions relating to wealth, educational achievement, vacations, device ownership, and work seniority.