From Clicks to Riches: Advertising to the Affluent

Despite the events of September 11, the United States bombing of Afghanistan, and the overall level of economic uncertainty, Netizens still flock online for anything from news, entertainment, and sports to homework help and medical advice. Obviously, I don’t need to preach to the choir here.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings and CyberAtlas, the total active Web population is currently 452 million worldwide, with the United States making up 174 million of those users. Nielsen pegs today’s Web audience as 52 percent female, 47 percent ages 25 to 49 years old, 58 percent earning from $25,000 to $75,000, almost half holding a high school degree with some college, and 22 percent holding a college degree.

As media planners, we know, recite, and use such numbers to validate, strategize, and assess potential opportunities for our clients. My group was recently charged with devising a creative, innovative, yet low-cost way of tapping into the “affluent market” via interactive marketing channels. As we started, we wanted to make sure affluents really were online. I was quite surprised with my group’s findings.

Although a niche market, affluent online users are veterans when it comes to Web usage, according to Forrester Research. More than 75 percent have been online for over three years. Nearly half have been online for five years. They access the Web frequently — three to five times per week.

Online planning tool @Plan can trace income levels as high as $150,000. However, affluent users are typically categorized by Web auditing research tools as having income levels over $100,000. Most online research tools don’t track audiences with household incomes greater than $150,000.

This demographic group is alive and growing. According to “The US Affluent Market” report published by Packaged Facts, the number of affluent households grew by 22 percent from 1997 to 2000. Last year, this group represented 22 percent of the total Web population (29.6 million people), a 7 percent increase from 2000. Households with incomes over $150,000 have experienced even greater growth — a 10 percent increase during this same period. These users are more likely to have faster Internet connections, such as DSL and ISDN.

According to the report, women head 54 percent of affluent households. (Women represent 52 percent of the total Web population.) Women in this demographic are very involved with all major household purchases and financial decisions. They are destination-driven and utilize the Web as a resource tool to find solutions. Feeling very comfortable with this medium, they access it when making major life changes or major purchases.

E-commerce sites index high against the affluent crowd, particularly travel, finance, and online shopping venues. For example, users may have gone to E*TRADE to buy stocks or to purchase a sweater.

Research indicates that the top-performing Web categories against the target skew toward financial, travel, and food categories.

The Top 10 Ranking Categories

Rank Category Index
1 Business News 164
2 Travel 136
3 General & Business Reference 133
4 Political & Public Affairs 127
5 Food, Dining, & Culinary 115
6 Real Estate 115
7 Weather 114
8 General News 114
9 Arts 113
10 Small Business 113

(Source: @Plan, Winter 2002)

Keep in mind, although it isn’t listed here, that we found considerable opportunities through paid-placement venues such as Overture. When you’re considering how to reach these folks through online advertising, note that affluent users are more likely to visit sites with a strong brand association and stronger reach, as compared to the Web population as a whole. The online affluent market differs from the mainstream.

We were able to track down a tremendous amount of information needed to scratch below the surface of this niche market. However, I’m sure there are more great stats, sites, and stories out there. If you have any experience in this market, I’d love to hear about it.

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