The term "opinion leader" has been used to describe those consumers who are wealthy, involved in their communities and knowledgeable about the world around them. Turns out, they also spend the most money on credit cards.
They are also, depending on their age, the most likely to switch to another card issuer after seeing a better offer, according to new research from Phoenix Marketing International.
Issuing banks would benefit greatly by understanding which of their customers are traditional (generally older) opinion leaders or newer, young opinion leaders categorized as "bloggers," said Greg Weed, director of card performance research for Phoenix.
With that knowledge, an issuer can "identify and create messaging that particularly keeps their products up to date and most relevant," Weed said.
Rhinebeck, N.Y-based Phoenix surveyed 6,000 credit card users earlier this year. Nearly 20% of those surveyed were classified as opinion leaders, based on their responses to certain questions, Weed said.
Opinion leaders, on average, spend 50% more on credit cards than non-opinion leaders, and they purchase about $21,000 a year on their cards, the research revealed.
The traditional opinion leaders represent the prime customers for issuers. "They are quite stable as loyal customers and pretty set in their ways," Weed said. "They are not likely to jump at any other offer."
Not so for the blogger opinion leaders. "These younger people are on the move in terms of lifestyle," Weed said. "They are likely to run a small business and have big ambitions for spending and they have an agenda for doing it."
Unfortunately for issuers, a key part of that agenda translates to taking their business to other banks any time they see an enticing offer.
Issuing banks must adjust their customer service and marketing to keep bloggers in place, said Leon Majors, senior vice president of Phoenix, and president of the payments systems practice.
Too often, a bank offers a promotion to new customers, but if a current customer likes the offer and inquires about it, the bank won't extend the promotion to its loyal customers, Majors said.
"Issuers need to focus messaging from a perspective of what their databases are telling them, basically that these people are happy, spending a lot and have good asset bases," Majors said. "This is a core group that is shopping all of the time, so if don't keep your message fresh, you could lose a nice chunk of your well-performing, high-spending people."
Because they are bloggers, they are always online and exposed to all other issuers' messaging, Majors said.
By establishing a messaging strategy for bloggers, issuers can take the same strategy to advancements in mobile technology. Bloggers tend to have the same traits as early adopters, Weed said.
"They are generally characteristic of those having an interest in smartphone payment apps and all of what is happening with Apple and everyone else," Weed said.
Phoenix plans to research consumer and merchant feelings toward Apple Pay in the near future to determine its impact in the mobile wallet landscape.
Last year, Phoenix research revealed that even tech-savvy smartphone owners who were well aware of mobile wallets weren't particularly eager to use them. Only 20% of those surveyed showed significant interest in using a mobile wallet.
The company is also keeping close tabs on consumer awareness of the EMV chip-based card migration in the U.S.
In the aftermath of the Target data breach, Phoenix research earlier this year indicated that nearly 90% of U.S. consumers do not know much about the smart cards.