Marketing: Online Packaging Is Everything

By Christopher Zoukis

Affluent customers are eager to spend their money on luxury goods and services. Yet as eager as they are, they do not simply spend their money willy-nilly. They do research, read reviews and recommendations, and seek advice. The advice they accept and trust the most comes from two sources: word-of-mouth referrals, and suggestions presented by the media. In other words, affluent customers are influenced in making luxury purchases.

According to Helen Leggatt, 43% of affluent Americans are influenced by the internet in their buying decisions. Another 30% are influenced by magazines, 29% by experts, and 19% by radio, television, and direct mail.  Image courtesy of dotcomsecrets.com

Ipsos Mendelsohn performed a survey of affluent customers in 2011. The results were summarized by e-Marketer:

Affluent customers who made more than $250,000 per year spent the most time online. In fact, the survey found that the higher the income level, the more time spent online. Those in the $250,000 category spent 27.4 hours per week on the internet, 17.8 hours per week watching television, and 10.9 hours per week listening to the radio.

For example, Home Electronics Journal (HEJ) reported that 93% of affluent consumers in the U.S. researched anticipated electronics purchases before buying. When doing their research, 62% of affluent customers used both merchandise websites and search engines, while 27% relied on e-mail newsletters in their research. HEJ discovered more than 50% of affluent customers purchase computers online.

Most interesting is the fact that affluent customers who shop online spend an average of $114,632 per year versus $22,813 per year for those who shop in stores.

Tootoomart did a study of online shopping habits of affluent customers. The study focused on time and frequency.  The results include the fact that more than 60% of affluent net-surfers buy online at least two times per month. Affluent online customers shop primarily on weekdays, during normal business hours. Most purchases were made around noon. And most of the online buyers were affluent women.

All of these statistics point to one thing: an online presence is absolutely necessary to any company or individual targeting affluent customers. Neglecting the internet as a marketing tool almost guarantees failure for sellers of luxury goods and services.

The opportunity inherent in an online presence is underscored by a study done by the New York Times, which reported on a new category of affluent customers called “Marketing Multipliers,” who are affluent women. These women spend more than two times the amount of money as other affluent women on luxury purchases. They spend their money on electronics and fashion, and depend on word-of-mouth referrals when buying.

What separates these Marketing Multipliers from other affluent women is their active participation in cyberspace. They do not simply visit various websites and read about what is already available. Instead, Marketing Multipliers maintain their own websites, and frequently blog. They are “connectors,” women who not only enjoy advising others in their purchases, but who also know legions of women from many diverse backgrounds. These “connectors” or Marketing Multipliers spend a lot of time online, doing research and ferreting out which products are good and which are not. They then share this information by means of their personal websites and blogs.

Marketing Multipliers not only spend twice as much as other affluent women, but more than 50% actively advise other affluent women on what to buy, especially in the areas of finance, fashion, electronics, cars, and travel. Seventy-six percent of them give word-of-mouth referrals regarding fashion. They travel twice as much as other affluent women, and actively advise others about hotels, airlines, and car rental agencies.

It is evident that by targeting and marketing to this group of “connectors,” any seller of luxury goods or services will be able to vastly increase sales. For these “connectors” are enlightened advocates who can dramatically influence the buying decisions of myriad affluent women. In effect, they are “brand ambassadors” and provide the opportunity for a type of viral marketing. By sorting and editing through all the available luxury products and services, they provide a valuable service to both sellers and buyers.

Marketing to these “connectors” should include documentation. All luxury products and services must be accurately presented. This means full disclosure of products and accessories.

Give “connectors” something to talk about and recommend. This involves “experiences” with the product or service. “Experiences” are best marketed by means of stories.

Hire outside experts to evaluate your online presence. This will allow for an objective perception of what potential customers will find when they visit your website. Is it easy to use? Are potential questions answered? What image is projected? Does the website enhance your brand image?