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61pc of wealthiest Americans own smartphones: study

May 20, 2011

Approximately 61 percent of the 22 million wealthiest individuals in the United States own a smartphone, indicating a potentially untapped market for about 8 million smartphones, or 39 percent of the affluent, according to a recent study by American Affluence Research Center.

According to the data, 22 percent of those surveyed own a tablet, meaning that there is a probable untapped market 78 percent of the affluent. The study was able to dissect the ages and demographics of individuals, along with types of devices.

“There is so much talk about pervasiveness of mobile devices, but it’s important to understand who has these devices and how they are using them in order for people to market effectively through them,” said Ron Kurtz, principal of American Affluence Research Center, Atlanta. “It’s interesting that affluent have a smartphone or tablet, so clearly this is a medium in a way to reach people.

“It’s important to know what platform [marketers] need to be communicating through to be convenient and easy to access a brand’s information, and to receive or use an app,” he said.

Participants in the survey have an annual household income of $333,000 and an average primary residence value of $1.2 million. Their net worth is, on average, $3.1 million with investable assets of $1.8 million.

These are the top 10 percent of the wealthiest individuals in the U.S.

Dissecting the affluent
In addition to 61 percent of individuals who actually own a tablet or smartphone, it is said that about 65 percent of the affluent at least have access to smartphones or tablets.

The survey broke down the participants into demographics and type of mobile device used.

For instance, 84 percent of affluent individuals under 50 own a smartphone, whereas only 38 percent of those 60 and up own one.

The study also showed a correlation between income and type of smartphone.

Individuals who earn more than $200,000 per year are almost twice as likely to own a smartphone and have a slight preference for the BlackBerry.

Moreover, those with a slightly lower income, less than $200,000 per year, favor the iPhone.

The study did not see much difference in gender pertaining to preference and ownership of tablets, but four out of five individuals favored the iPad as their chosen tablet.

Predictably, younger individuals are more likely to own tablets and smartphones. Also, the increased likelihood to own a smartphone or tablet has a direct relationship with net worth and income.

Moving forward
Many luxury brands are reluctant to move their marketing into the tablet or smartphone sphere.

However, since 61 percent of the most affluent individuals in America have a smartphone, it seems like brands should be rethinking their strategy.

Some brands, even the most prestigious, are learning.

For instance, French fashion house Chanel is taking one giant leap for iconic luxury brands with the launch of two mobile-optimized sites for its fine jewelry and watch collections (see story).

Still, many luxury brands are beginning to understand the power of mobile applications, mobile-optimized sites and SMS messaging.

These are all ways that luxury brands can use smartphones and tablets to get in touch with their customer base, move products and build loyalty and relationships.

“The smartphone and tablet users are still younger users, which aren’t the absolute key demographic for luxury brands, but it’s a start,” Mr. Kurtz said. “Clearly, it is a channel to which the affluent are connected, though certainly a younger segment.

“Brands need to take this information into consideration and what they’re going to be offering and saying, how they’re going to be saying it and how much they’re going to be spending on these channels and on [mobile],” he said.

Final Take
Rachel Lamb, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York

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