Wealthy Consumers are Ready to Step Up to Web 2.0

The Internet is no longer an adjunct for reaching and doing business with the wealthy, according to the findings of a survey by the Luxury Institute. Rather it has become an essential—if not the central—channel for the exchange of information and the conduct of commerce for the wealthy.

“This survey documents that wealthy consumers have ‘been there, done that’ as far as Web 1.0 is concerned,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the ratings and research institution that tracks high net worth consumer. “Wealthy consumers are the most educated, highest achievers in history, and will not be left behind by Web 2.0 with its interactive and collaborative characteristics.”

Showing the ubiquity of high-speed Internet in daily life, 99 percent of Americans with annual incomes of $150,000 access the Internet from home; just two percent still use dial-up connections. Most of the wealthy get access with a cable modem (47 percent) or DSL line (32 percent), seven percent use T-1 lines. More than three-fourths (78 percent) report accessing the Internet regularly at work. 

The most popular browser is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, used by 63 percent—and by 74 percent of those earning more than $500,000 annually. Firefox is the second most popular browser with a 15-percent share.

Google is dominant in search engines with a 63-percent market share. Yahoo! is the preferred search provider for 11 percent of the wealthy, although it is the most popular provider of homepages, leading Google by 23 percent to 17 percent. Portals and content providers need to optimize viewing of their Web pages for browsing on devices other than personal computers as mobile access is becoming increasingly popular with the wealthy; 19 percent regularly go online with PDA devices, such as the BlackBerry from Research in Motion or Palm Treo. Sixteen percent report using cell phones for access on the go.

Compared to results of a similar 2005 survey of Internet habits, several areas of online activity have shown especially noteworthy increases. While sending and receiving email are still the most popular online activities, 82 percent of the wealthy now pay their bills online, compared to 75 percent in 2005, and 85 percent say that they conduct research for work—up from 79 percent. Background checks are also gaining in popularity, with 80 percent of the wealthy reporting conducting checks online, compared to 75 percent in 2005. 

Nearly all wealthy Americans (98 percent) use the Web to purchase goods and services, and more than half (55 percent) do it “frequently.” Amazon.com is the most popular shopping destination, mentioned by name by nine percent of the wealthy, followed by eBay with a six-percent mention, and Dell with three percent.

One area of e-commerce that has surged in popularity is buying and downloading music. Driven in large part by the ubiquity of the Apple iPod and other music players—54 percent of the wealthy own an MP3 player—the percentage of the wealthy who buy and download music has jumped from 42 percent to 55 percent in less than two years.