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Reaching the Affluent Market Online

High digital media usage and device ownership make affluents a tempting digital target

February 1, 2012

By any measure, affluent consumers in the US constitute a large market. Using a minimum of $100,000 in yearly household income as a threshold, an Ipsos Mendelsohn study last year put the number of affluent adults at 58.5 million. Their heavy use of the internet and mobile devices makes them a tempting target for digital marketing efforts.

“The vast majority of affluents do not regard themselves as rich, however, and don’t spend as if they were,” said Mark Dolliver, eMarketer analyst and author of the new report, “Affluents: Demographic Profile and Marketing Approaches.” “That’s all the more true when a weak economy has left many affluents feeling their finances are deteriorating. Cutbacks in their spending have become common.”

US Affluent Households, by Income, June 2011 (% of total)

“Affluents are willing to buy luxuries when they feel the quality makes it worthwhile, but spending on such items is not their default mode,” said Dolliver. “It helps matters for luxury brands that affluents are avid users of digital media, making them less elusive than conventional wisdom might suggest. However, this puts a premium on luxury brands’ sometimes shaky expertise in using social, mobile and other digital platforms.”

Internet usage is nearly universal among affluents, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) “Affluent Consumers in a Digital World” study, with 98% of them going online. (The Pew Internet & American Life Project last August put the figure for internet usage among all US adults at 78%.) Affluents far surpassed the general population in average amount of time spent online per week, at 26.2 hours vs. 21.7 hours. By contrast, affluents spent less time watching TV—17.6 hours per week, on average, vs. 34 hours for the general population.

Select Media Activities and Device Ownership of US Affluent Internet Users, Feb 2011 (% of respondents)

With their extensive use of the internet and mobile technologies, affluent consumers are exposed to a great deal of digital advertising. Brands that target this audience are betting affluents find ads in those venues engaging. Surveys indicate that some kinds of digital ads are more likely than others to make that bet pay off, including email ads, sponsored websites from search results and ads that are highly relevant to what a person is doing at the moment, as well as those tied to demographic characteristics.


The full report, “Affluents: Demographic Profile and Marketing Approaches,” also answers these key questions:

  • Going by common definitions, how big is the affluent market?
  • How do affluents spend their money?
  • What are their patterns of digital usage?
  • How do affluents feel about luxury goods, and what are luxury brands doing to reach them?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. Total Access clients, log in and view the report now.


Check out today’s other article, “Women’s Influence on Purchase Decisions on the Rise.”

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