For many brands, affluent consumers are the holy grail of their marketing efforts. They’re the consumers who will buy higher-ticket items, buy more often, and share information about their purchases with other affluents. But on the web, it’s extremely challenging to figure out who they are. Seeing which users research high-end brands and products doesn’t show marketers whether they’re looking at a consumer of means or a daydreaming college student. To find the true affluents among all browsing consumers, marketers need to entice them to share information that reveals something about their interests and buying habits.
In the offline world, it can be much easier to spot high rollers. There are visible indicators — the consumer who rolls up at a store in a luxury car, wearing a $1,000 watch or a designer outfit, presenting an American Express Black Card at the register. Online, we don’t see these quick give-aways. But digital marketers can take away an important lesson in consumer psychology from the offline world: Affluent consumers enjoy displaying the telltale signs of their financial status, and they value being treated with a level of attention from merchants that suits what they are able to exchange in return. Online, brands need to give affluents the opportunity to demonstrate how they are digital high rollers.
Currently, though, brands and marketers target virtually everyone through the same channels, with the same methods. Digital advertisements aim to divert the
consumer’s attention from his or her everyday browsing habits. The consumer goes online to gain information, or to be entertained, or to communicate with other people. As consumers are
conducting their own business, brands try to distract them via ads. There’s no VIP room on the open web for consumers who are already digital high rollers.
They’re given the same treatment as everyone else — barraged with unsolicited ads, many of which are irrelevant to their everyday concerns. Affluents have a certain economic status in the real world, but the currency doesn’t trade accordingly in the attention economy of the web. And for affluents to feel as valued on the web as they do in the showroom, that needs to change.
There’s been discussion about the role and importance of consumer-managed data for years now, but in reality, consumer-managed data has failed to
gain traction, because it requires users to take extra steps to specify which entities have access to their data and under what circumstances. But part of the failure lies in the concept that allowing
consumers to manage their data leads merely to better-targeted ads. Ads distract from any consumer’s daily online activities.
Instead, if consumers are going to be asked to specify who sees their information, they should in turn be given something of value by whoever sees that information. For the consumer-managed exchange to work consumers need incentives — they need tangible values and rewards. And affluents stand to benefit the most from a consumer-managed data play. If affluents had access to a platform that recognized their actual purchasing power, their data could be their Black Card. Their purchasing history and intent to purchase could be their entry to the digital VIP room.
If brands want to engage affluents, they need to give affluents a platform to demonstrate they’re really digital high rollers, one that will in turn allow those consumers to be treated in a manner consistent with their own sense of status and their perceived value to a brand. But brands need to think about what they can give these consumers in exchange for the information that reveals their status. Instead of just thinking in terms of ad targeting, brands need to consider rewards and perks for their most valuable consumers. If affluents are incentivized through a suitable platform to customize their information online, brands can give them the same treatment as when they roll up in a nice sports car “dressed to the nines.”