Experiences are what count most for today's luxury consumer, not material goods, according to the newly published American Express Platinum Luxury Survey which was conducted for the 20th anniversary of the Amex Platinum Card.
According to the survey, more than half of affluent consumers (59%) receive the greatest personal satisfaction from experiences such as fine dining, travel, entertainment, cultural and arts events, and sporting events. American Express reports that each of its affluent consumers spent an average of US$10,060 on these luxuries over the past 12 months.
Less popular treats
Only 21% of those surveyed said they derive the greatest satisfaction from personal luxuries such as cars, fashion, and jewellery. This group spent an average of US$14,270 on such luxuries over the past 12 months.
Another 20% said they enjoy home luxuries the most, including furnishings, kitchenware, linens and bedding. On average this group spent US$12,300 on home luxuries over the past 12 months.
Easing the pains
"In the real world, affluent consumers aren't relaxing at the poolside or eating bonbons," said Peggy Maher, senior vice president and general manager for consumer charge cards at American Express. "Instead they're working long hours, juggling their personal and professional lives, and are constantly pressed for time."
According to Maher, the company's most affluent cardmembers said they wanted to ease their busy and hectic lives with experiences that make them feel special, whether by means of a massage, a night out with fine dining and entertainment, or taking a luxurious holiday abroad.
"Twenty years ago the affluent lifestyle was focused on having and obtaining more material things, but the new luxury paradigm finds affluent consumers pursuing new life experiences," said to Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, which conducted the American Express Platinum Luxury Survey.
"Today, affluent consumers are far more interested in living well and smartly rather than 'keeping up with the Joneses'," added Danziger, who is also the author of the luxury consumer-focused book, 'Why People Buy Things They Don't Need'.
Those survey respondents who said they value experiences most spent an average of US$26,401 on experiential luxury services in the past 12 months - more than double the average spend of all the other respondents. The most popular experiences turned out to be fine dining and luxury travel.
The majority of these experience-oriented consumers (79%) said that fine dining was the number one experience they had enjoyed over the last 12 months. A little over three-quarters (76%) said they enjoyed fine dining at least once a month at a luxury restaurant, and spent an average of US$5,990 on dining out during the past year.
However, the food was not always the primary motivation when making dining decisions:
- 37% rated the reputation of the chef or restaurant as the top reason to choose a restaurant;
- 33% choose a restaurant based on service or getting a good table;
- 31% said outstanding restaurant reviews were the most influential factor.
The experience-focused consumer group also travel often - and in style. More than two-thirds (68%) took an average of six personal trips in the past year, spending an average of US$12,650 on personal travel. And they didn't take their work with them either: 47% cited relaxation and freedom from stress as their top reasons for travel. Nearly all (90%) agreed that travelling was a desirable way to "break out of the day-to-day routine".
When they travel, more than half (56%) said that creating memorable experiences was the most important criteria, and almost half (45%) had received help creating the perfect holiday from a travel agent, personal concierge or other personal assistant. This allowed many to take advantage of special VIP programmes, gain access to special accommodations, or obtain amenities that are available only on an privileged basis. Of those who took advantage of such services, 70% said that such special programmes greatly enhanced or somewhat enhanced their travel experiences.
The affluent consumers also said they plan to enjoy more luxury experiences in the future, with 87% saying they expect to spend the same or more on fine dining in the next year, and 81% saying they expect to spend the same or more on personal travel.
The American Express Platinum Luxury Survey was based on a quantitative survey of a random cross-section of 870 affluent consumers in the USA, each having an annual household income of at least US$100,000, and who had purchased or enjoyed a luxury (whether home, personal or experience-based) during the past 12 months. The average household income of consumers surveyed was US$175,000.