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Luxury Apps Pamper High-End Shoppers
CNBC.com | April 12, 2012 | 12:08 PM EDT

It’s a difficult question for a sector that is used to making its sales by luring customers into its opulent, carefully controlled environments. Even as the rest of the public has shifted its buying online, high-end brands have been insulated from technology trends by their relatively older, late-adopting demographic.

But ignoring the tech revolution is a luxury, so to speak, upscale brands can no longer afford. A study conducted earlier this year by The Luxury Institute showed that 60 percent of high net worth individuals own smartphones, and of those, 67 percent used them to shop. Eighty percent had downloaded an app.

And that's just the Boomers, who make the bulk of expensive purchases today. The fastest growing segment of affluent shoppers are the group that marketers call the Millennials. Now in their early 20s, they are known for their desire to be digitally connected, a passion they expect their favorite brands to share.

"The customer is leading the shift," says Wanda Gierhart, chief marketing officer for the Neiman Marcus Group, who helped develop the new app with the Silicon Valley firm Signature. In the next decade, she says, "it's the customers who will be doing the marketing. They are going to do the communicating about our brands."

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