The Elusive Affluent

The affluent are online, and their numbers are growing. Don’t take my word for it, though. There’s quite a bit of research supporting that idea. Nielsen//NetRatings recently released more information about this elusive audience showing they’re the fastest-growing income segment online.

How do you efficiently reach these people? According to the research, they do the same things online as the rest of us: check email, visit news and information sites, use search engines, and buy stuff. The difficulty is reaching them in those environments without also reaching a lot of people who don’t have tons of money.

Typically, the affluent are defined as people with household incomes over $150,000. Nielsen reports this segment of online users grew by 31 percent from March 2003 to March 2004.

How to Reach the Affluent

Following, some things we’ve learned about engaging the affluent online. You’ll want to keep these points in mind when developing creative and selecting possible partnerships, publishers, and placements:

  • Exclusivity. The affluent thrive on having something elusive. They want what nobody else has and will go to extreme measures to get it. Exclusivity sets them apart. Keep this in mind when selecting media placements. For example, partner with a site to build out a VIP section that caters to the affluent.

  • Experience. Luxury is a sensory experience. In the offline world, everything from the lighting and décor to the smell, touch, and overall atmosphere contribute to the luxury experience. We must achieve that in the online world as well, by ensuring an experience is delivered on a brand’s site as well as in ad units.
  • Emotion. It’s more than money that separates the affluent from the less-wealthy. It’s status. Part of the affluent’s elite status comes from the company they keep. This is a group whose purchasing decisions are most influenced by word of mouth but are also influenced by the brand and the product’s and retailer’s reputation, in that order.

    To attract and keep affluent consumers, an emotional connection must be forged with the brand. Ad creative plays a big role in delivering this emotional connection. Maximizing photography and rich media use can help.

Where to Find the Affluent

Now that you know how to engage this group, let’s talk about where to find them. There are a number of fairly effective ways to reach this audience online. As with offline media, they still have a few limitations. According to @plan, the following sites do very well in reaching people with household incomes of $150,000 or more. Below, a few of the top sites in categories where you’re likely to find this audience (I’ve included an index showing the likelihood of hitting your target on one of these sites in relation to other sites on the Web):

  • Financial

    • Bloomberg.com (244)

    • Business 2.0 (242)
    • The Wall Street Journal Online (229)

  • Gourmet food and wine

    • Wine Spectator (227)

    • Food & Wine (185)
    • Epicurious (151)

  • Travel

    • Fodors.com (171)

    • Frommer’s (152)
    • Travel + Leisure (149)

Lots of high indices… sounds great, right? The limitation is that although these sites are more effective than most at reaching the affluent, the percentage of these sites’ audiences that fit the targeting criteria are still relatively low. For example, WSJ.com indexes at 229. However, only 18.5 percent of the site’s audience has a household income of $150,000. Though a significant percentage, the remaining 81.5 percent may not fit your target audience. That can result in waste.

Fine-tune your targeting. Capabilities such as portfolio-sized targeting can be implemented on certain financial sites. On some sites, you can target key areas that rank higher for the affluent audience, such as subscription areas on WSJ.com. If the site requires registration, you may be able to target affluent job titles, such as C-level executives.

I’d love to hear what effective ways you’ve found to reach this elusive audience.

Nominations are open for the 2004 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards.

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