Don't Get Lazy With Affluents

Affluent customers are the most likely to bail on you. That's the takeaway from a new report published in Harvard Business Review. However, understanding those high-end customers, their digital media usage and how it relates to their behavioral lifecycle is the best hedge against this potential problem.

The study, authored by Dennis Campbell, an associate professor in the Accounting and Management unit at Harvard Business School, says that high-end companies who offer high levels of customer service can't expect too much loyalty if a new competitor offers even better service.

"High-end businesses must avoid complacency and continue to proactively increase relative service levels when they're faced with even the potential threat of increased service competition," he writes. His point is well taken. High-end customers expect a lot in terms of service. However, complacency can be attacked through digital media. Simply put, affluent customers have their own lifecycle patterns that show themselves through digital usage. Companies that meet them there will stand a better chance of keeping these customers engaged.

Here's an example. A think tank called The Audience Collaborative published data last week that showed affluent Internet users ($200,000 to $500,000) are still big fans of print media. More than 20% of those with incomes of at least $500,000 spent 11 or more hours per week reading newspapers. This compared with just 6% of the general population. This different media usage demands that companies look at a concept called customer lifecycle media.

The advertisements aimed at affluent Internet users must reflect that they will read print. Therefore cross-promotions that take advantage of this segment's likelihood to follow a print read with an Internet interaction would be the answer. Meaning the cross-promotions at the beginning of a media usage lifecycle must be followed up and change with the various stages the customers will move in and out of. Service opportunities increase. Relevance increases. Engagement increases.

Another example: Ipsos Mendelsohn reported in late 2010 that about 98% of the affluent consumers are online -- compared with 70% of the rest of the population. More than 14 million affluents own smartphones and the segment's adoption of tablet computers are much higher than the average consumer. Knowing that this segment is mobile and ahead of the tech curve can indicate that they will be more aware of advertisements designed for and served on these devices. Here again, the affluent media lifecycle is different than the average, and must be planned accordingly.

How do you do this? The answer goes beyond targeting technology. It gets into customer lifecycle media platforms, which can dynamically serve advertising based on customer segment analysis from combined sources. Is the customer new or is he a tenured, loyal customer? Or is the customer one who responds well to cross-sell offers? These platforms can also enable advertisers to customize their approaches based on those different lifecycle patterns.

Customer lifecycle media is the antidote to complacency. And complacency will surely lose any customer -- affluent or not. Use media to address affluent customers when they research, read, interact, and then purchase. That's the lifecycle. All these behaviors present different opportunities for marketers if they recognize them.

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