Generation Z Infographic: Summer Fun and Back to School Shopping

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 @ 01:53 PM

It’s summertime, and from preschoolers to teenagers, the youth of America are soaking up the sun and enjoying their vacations. Our YouthBeat team has put together an infographic to show you stats on:

  • Places they’ve visited,
  • What they’re doing,
  • And what’s on their playlists.

But pretty soon, as my father Bob McIlrath says, “it will be time to close down the swimming pool and open up the school house.” With that comes Back-to-School shopping! We’ve also included important numbers on what exactly back-to-school shopping looks like including who’s shopping, and at what stores they want to shop.

Click here to download our infographic!


Tags: Gen Z, Back to School, summer, shopping

What a Tough Economy Tells Us About Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

Teen Shopping SpendingBeing a teenager has always been tough, but according to a recent study on teen employment, a rough economy makes finding work more trying than ever for them.  The employment rate for teens ages 16-19 has fallen from 45% in 2000 to 26% in 2011 - the lowest employment rate for teens since World War II. 

While numerous studies suggest that teens are increasingly choosing to focus on school and forgo working, this study accounts for "underutilized" labor—teens that have part-time jobs, but want to work full-time and teens that aren't looking for work, but also want to be working full-time.  In other words, for teens who do want to work, the jobs just aren’t there. 

If you’re interested in gaining a clear picture of the lives of teens today, these findings contribute a crucial piece to the puzzle. But beyond simply describing the current state of affairs, we think this study should inspire some sound insights about the future of the youth market.  Of course, fewer teens working might mean less disposable income for this cohort, but it also means that how teens spend (and think about spending) will change.

So, what might the current economic crisis mean for the future of teen spending?

They will make education (even more of) a priority.  Staying in school has become increasingly important to teens and all Americans, but we predict that more teens will deliberately forgo working to continue with or focus on their education. These teens will seek out supplies to make their school years more productive. In other words, for marketers, think school is cool.

They will prioritize products with longevity.  Even though teens are looking for deals, they also want to get their money’s worth.  Products that last longer are increasingly more appealing to this economically challenged cohort.  Even the "coolest" product can get a bad reputation if it's known to have a short shelf life.  Don't be afraid to emphasize your product’s long-term potential.   

They will make shopping about more than just spending.  With less money to spend, teens might be avoiding retail stores more than their cohorts from previous generations.  And when they do browse, teens feel less obligated to spend on the spot than in the past. This might seem like bad news for marketers, but instead, we think this signals some unexpected opportunities. Acknowledge that the shopping experience is increasingly social – both in-store and online. Don’t despair if they’re window-shopping – getting in their consideration set should be considered the first and critical win with these savvy, strategic shoppers.

They will ponder their purchases more than ever before. Forget your image of the impulsive teen buyer. Teens have become more thorough and more thoughtful in their purchases. This is why it’s vital to facilitate the evaluation process through reviews, demos, etc. Encouraging teens to think about their purchases will show them that you value their time and respect their wallets. 

Tags: Youth, Teens, shopping, fashion, money

3 Back-to-School Rules

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 02, 2013 @ 10:21 AM

Back to school shopping is well underway, although in some parts of the country, the first day of school is over a month away. According to the 2013 National Retail Federation Back-to-School survey,  24% of families with kids in K through 12th grades reported that they would begin shopping 2 months prior to school’s start (up slightly from 22% last year). The New York Times noted that some marketers began to plant the seeds for back-to-school shopping as early as May, citing Office Depot’s One Direction cause marketing campaign as an example. But with most marketers bracing for a back-to-school shopping period in which spending will decrease from last year’s record highs, getting back-to-school marketing, advertising, product selection and pricing will be more important than ever. How can retailers and marketers compete for these fewer dollars and deliver the needs of more discriminating back-to-school shoppers in 2013? We’ve got three rules for back-to-school that smart marketers will follow:

  1. kmartFocus on value, not price. Price might be prominent on the minds of moms, but she’s not willing to compromise – even when she has a coupon. We think Target gets it right this back-to-school season with their “Kids Got Style” campaign. Moms know that Target offers low prices (“Expect More, Pay Less.”). But compared to Kohl’s back-to-school campaign, which focuses on mom saving (even showing a close-up of the receipt that suggests she saved over $80), Target keeps the focus on delivering kid confidence.  Stylish products take center-stage, but the hero isn’t mom – it’s their confident kids. Target makes mom’s mission more admirable – it’s about getting the best (in a fiscally responsible way), not about pinching a few pennies.  
  2. Keep it light. While Target might have the market cornered on showing kids with style, Kmart has taken a refreshing approach – showing the funnier side of back-to-school. In a bully-sensitive schoolyard, an ad that shows kids “talking trash” might be a risky move. But this playful piece from the discount retailer turns the tables on typical kid slams. The kid stars of these spots, who reflect a more diverse kid cohort and who look decidedly real, call each other out with clever comebacks like “yo mama must have cavities because that hoodie (that she bought at Kmart) is sweeeeet!” Or (our personal favorite), “Your mama’s like a tasty cheese plate because she saved so much cheddar on those Kmart jeans.” Just try to stay stressed out about long back-to-school shopping lists after watching this spot.
  3. Give her a guide. Much has been made of the lengths that moms will go to comparing prices and online pre-shopping before heading to the store for back-to-school stuff. But the smartest marketers don’t depend on mom doing all her homework. In fact, one trend we think that’s worth following? Help mom make the grade. Pottery Barn Kids caters to a mom who is willing to pay a premium for a custom carrying case, and the retailed knows that these moms really want to get their kids’ gear right. On their website, they let moms shop by child grade – particularly useful for finding the right size backpack for that not-so-preschool, but not-so-big-kid backpack. Moms might be willing to look around for the perfect products for her kids, but she also values brands that give her the reassurance that she’s getting size and style right the first time. At back-to-school, showing you understand what kids need matters as much as offering a varied selection.

Tags: youth research, preschool, advertisment, shopping, school

The Unexpected Power of Paper

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 @ 09:50 AM

There’s no doubt about it: this generation of youth is more attuned to digital spaces than any in history. But despite being digital natives and online ingénues, they continue to value “paper” in some very specific ways…

WishlistWhen I was growing up, I remember the thrill of getting the Sears Wishbook. Like many kids before and after, I would dog-ear the pages to make Christmas list creation efficient and comprehensive! These voluminous works of commercial art insured that no toys was left unconsidered. As I got older, catalogs continued to play an important role during the holidays. Clothing, room décor, and even the earliest of technologies were easier seen and shown than described in words.

But that was then…And surely, this ritualistic run-through of the catalog must have been made obsolete! But, in fact, today’s households with kids, tweens and teens, and certainly with preschoolers, receive more catalogs than ever. And kids continue to peruse them. What do catalogs offer kids, and why do they remain so precious?

  • A picture speaks a thousand words. As much as the Internet can be visual candy for kids, there’s nothing quite as compelling as a fantasy world, spread across two pages. The Pottery Barn Kids website allows for searching and seeing items of your choice, but only in the catalog can a child (or more likely, parent) imagine themselves in the perfectly appointed bedroom or play space.
  • In an information-heavy world, catalogs curate. While online brands help you pick from among known options, catalogs continue to corner the market on the “at-home” browse. And catalogs from mail-order companies offer interesting and unique items that kids, tweens and teens might not find when they visit their favorite sites. For parents, this is even moreso, as educational catalogs for little kids add Montessori toys, “classic” toys and toys for the brainy child (or the child you hope becomes brainy!) via a veritable buffet of appetizing morsels.
  • Touch matters! It may be easier than ever to create collages online, and there’s little need for teens to print out their photos to show them off. But still, there’s something irreplaceable about the properties of paper. And while this might be the touchscreen generation, paper might be perceived as even more portable. They can move it from wall to wishlist. They can review it even during those “no-tech” times, or in their “low-tech” zones. If anything, paper reviews don’t infringe on screen time limitations. And another benefit? Catalogs come in the mail. Nothing says “you matter” like getting a “gift” with your name written all over it.

Far from having all the answers related to catalogs, we think there’s more to explore. How do the volumes of catalogs that arrive at kids’ doors jive with their environmental sensibilities? Which catalogs break through what can be an overwhelming amount of clutter? And for online brands, is a paper presence a worthwhile investment? We’ll keep our eye on this old but au courant shopping ritual and keep you informed!

Tags: advertisment, shopping, culture, trends

Mom Confidence: What Back to School Ads Really Sell

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 @ 11:59 AM

With summer winding down, back-to-school advertising has come on full force. According to the National Retail Federation, $83 billion will be spent for back-to-school 2012, and the fight for those dollars has already begun. Retailers have been on air with messaging about new jeans, school supplies, and lunchbox fare for weeks. Brands have begun to release reminders that the choice of gluestick and even sticky-note matter…

describe the imageEven though a Yahoo webinar from April 2012 suggested that back-to-school advertisers should remember that back-to-school shopping isn’t all about moms (“23% of dads and 84% of teens say they're getting more involved in back-to-school shopping; 80% of those in charge of making back-to-school purchases say their children influence what's actually bought”), it seems that back-to-school ads are taking some typical approaches to tantalizing parent purchasers. Despite different approaches, most seem to adopt, as an underlying premise, that winning the back-to-school battle is all about instilling confidence in mom. Sure, you could do that by showing her how much she’ll save. But what fun would that be? Here’s how some of the most aired campaigns are making moms feel like she’s too cool for school…

  1. Reminding her that she was cool once…Beverly Hills 90210 might have found a new audience with this generation of teens, and Jenny Garth might even play a role, but none of their dramas will top that moment when Kelly Taylor faced the ultimate choice: Dylan McKay or Brandon Walsh? This moment is played out in Old Navy’s back-to-school advertising, perhaps to persuade mom shoppers that high school hasn’t changed. Or more likely, Old Navy has realized that their brand of tongue-in-cheek humor makes the mom shopper more comfortable, than, say, Abercrombie? Old Navy seems to be positioning itself as the place for parents to purchase, leaving the teen-with-a-wallet crowd to spend somewhere else. 
  2. Old people icons…And by old, we mean over 18…Target, once again, plays with the juxtaposition between cool and kitsch, high and low, high-style and highly practical that define their brands. In their back-to-school campaign, ordinary objects like rulers come together to form guitars…Back-to-school shopping takes on the event-like status of a Lady Gaga concert….And actors who would likely (hopefully) only be recognizable to parents are used in a commercial that could seemingly get kids bopping. The guy from Bridesmaids? Sure, he should be selling jeans to kids for back-to-school. But lest you think we don’t like this idea, let us be clear: Target (like Old Navy) is letting moms and dads in on the fun.
  3. Schoolhouse rock. Well before Glee, JC Penney had made school look like a Broadway show. Once again, advertisers seem to be softening the blow of returning to the books by re-imagining school as a stage. For parents, who perhaps fantasize about their children as confident, bubbly students, strutting and giggling through their days, these images might comfort. Will kids, tweens and teens buy-in? Payless has raced past the first day right to the fantasy field trip, with its spot (using a They Might Be Giants tune that might make parents wonder where they heard those voices before) that features frolicking kids who delight in dino exploration. There are no lines or rules for these happy-kids. And this seems to be just what parents have in mind as they purchase pants with reinforced knees, or hoodies that promise to hold up for the whole year.
  4. Mom’s make it better. In contrast with showing all of these confident kids, dancing their way through the classroom doors, 3M chooses another approach to instilling moms with the confidence that they can make back-to-school better. In their ad, a shy, sweet little girl tentatively scans her new class…It’s not until she opens her lunchbox to find a sticky-note of reassurance that she drops her shoulders and lets her grin spread.

Will their approaches work? It’s likely they’ll win a share of the back-to-school booty. But while it’s too soon to tell, we predict that they’re leaving some kid, tween and teen influenced purchases on the table.

Tags: Education, mom, shopping, fashion, parenting, school

Brand Customization and Youth

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, May 04, 2012 @ 09:28 AM

Sleeping bags with their names embroidered on the edge, room décor that notes the name of the space’s chief resident, Wii “Mii”s that are made to look like their young users (or purposefully look quite different from them), and even made-for-me versions of Nike products...It’s hardly hard to find examples of customization in kids’ worlds.

As an element of evergreen youth culture, and as a go-to-tool in the marketers’ toolbox, customization sits alongside collecting as a “classic.” But why does customization connect so strongly with youth? And what, importantly, are its limitations as a lever to pull when it comes to creating powerful youth products and salient services?Brand Customization in Youth

First, customization’s cache can be explained, at least in part by kids’ and tweens’ developmental needs and stage-related goals…

  • The need for power and control. Despite being a cohort that’s often considered to be consulted and catered to, the experience of childhood is still one in which every freedom on the playground is countered by a limitation or a rule. Kids, focused on mastery, and tweens, focused on finding their way through a fitful trip in-between childhood and teendom, both seek ways to get a grip on the world around them. Getting to go beyond voicing one’s opinion to actually creating an object of their desire, to their own specifications, provides tangible proof that they can affect the world around them. It’s not the only way they feel powerful, but asserting their own style on everyday objects can carry more layers of meaning with it than it does for adults.
  • The need to fit in. Customization might seem contrary to the desire to fit in, but for kids and for tweens, being one of the crowd often means balancing the desire to fit in with the need to assert one’s own identity. Historian Nicholas Sammond points to the early Mickey Mouse Club, with its members dressed in standardized suits with their names clearly visible on the front, as evidence of a distinctly American way of balancing these two seemingly conflicting goals.
  • The need to be known. It used to be that getting a piece of mail with one’s name on it evoked a certain kind of euphoria among youth: “Someone knows I’m out there!” For this cohort, it might be more like the first email, or the acquisition of a screen name that shows them that they are known outside the domestic domain.  Either way, seeing their moniker on the mail, or their name in lights isn’t about stardom or fame as much as about the simple notion that they are a person. For young kids in particular, this recognition of their separateness from their family and their siblings makes them feel special.
  • The need for the now. Kids and tweens are certainly seasoned at impulse control – or at least savvy to the need to exhibit it in specific situations. But being told not to wait – that you can have something (an experience, a product, a service) – on your terms is not only indulgent, but exhilarating for kids and tweens.

But when you’re creating customize products or experiences for kids and tweens, proceed with caution…

  • Kids and tweens don’t really want to create from the ground up – at least when it comes to make-it-themselves products. Some kids and tweens, certainly, feel confident enough to act as authentic auteurs. But most prefer to put the pieces together in a unique way. And they want some assurances that you’ll help them “get it right” by giving them enough – but not too many – ways to assemble themselves.
  • Customization, alone, isn’t a proposition…Most brands, like Nike, need to establish themselves as products and experiences to admire and aspire to first. Once the brand is established, letting kids take it back and make it their own is all the more compelling.
  • Finally, customization looks different by age and stage.  Tweens shift from preferring their name emblazoned on everything to carefully selecting where they display. While kids and tweens both conceptualize customization as “play,” tweens are less interested in experimenting with forms and flavors than with their emerging identities. And putting their stamp on something they own is a much less risky proposition for confident kids than for tweens, who suddenly perceive that all eyes are seeing them.

Now, here’s your chance to customize this blog! Who do you think is getting it right when it comes to customization? Make your mark below!

Tags: Youth, shopping, kids tweens teens, trends, parenting

What Wishlists Tell Us About Kids

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 @ 11:16 AM

As part of our pre-holiday blog series, we’re taking a look at some of the most commonly recommended items from among the “top pick” lists of some of our favorite toy and gift sites. Last week, we looked at some of the most telling take-aways about preschooler products; this week, we look at some gifts that are sure to catch the attention and capture the imagination of kids.

Parents of 6-10 year olds (how YouthBeat defines “kids”), may be experiencing holiday hecticness for the first time. Christmas morning might be measured more by what’s not there than what is…This isn’t to say that kids can’t delight in a surprise or two, but it gets harder and harder to impress these elementary schoolers, and more difficult to satisfy the many demands on their wishlists. In the past few years, we’ve heard more and more parents of this age group bemoan the high ticket price of the items that children expect. Even if a few high-priced gifts fit into Santa’s budget, most parents and kids fantasize about frolicking in wrapping paper, or at least, spending a long morning mulling through mounds of gifts! And kids this age ask for specific brands and models more than in the past, so relatives and reindeer alike are forced to embark on more strategic searches than ever before… 

The following products seem to embody the holiday hopes of kids in 2011:

  1. LEGO Star Wars makes the evergreen kid brand a must-have (once again) for kids. LEGO has infiltrated almost every category that touches kids’ lives – video games, board games, and even LEGO TV. And according to YouthBeat data, even reading about LEGO is fun! LEGO Magazine ranks at the top of kids’ list of favorite magazines for the first half of 2011. But it’s the simple sophistication of these “loose parts” that continue to catalyze the imagination of youth. With STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) serving as the new buzz in education, parents are more willing than ever before to buy toys that inspire their future architect or astronaut. And they can feel good about the plug-free, signal-free and battery-free form that these classic toy sets take! But this is only half of the story…Star Wars is the set seducing kids this year. This movie still ranks as kids’ top of all time, according to our most recent wave of YouthBeat data. The story of good over evil, brought to the latest generation via Cartoon Network’s Clone Wars, not only makes for a great narrative, but also lends itself to techy gadgets – even in a low tech form.
  2. Classic toys have been all the rage the last few years, with parents being inundated with catalogs from companies that specialize in re-makes of toys that they recognize from their youth, brands re-issuing modernized versions of the old standards, and old games and toys getting a makeover. One of the toy that will surely hit parents’ radar, even if it might be a bit young for kids, is Connect 4 Launch from Hasbro. This latest edition of the game (that was once seen as an innovative answer to the boring way we used to play checkers and tic tac toe), gets kids up and moving while they play, and adds a few gadgets in for good measure. Hasbro has sought to bring back family game night for many years now, and this old-school game with a new-school twist might represent the right way to do it for headphonestoday’s family. Or it might just be more fun for kids to play together – afterall, chucking your checkers at the game board gives them permission to play a little subversively under the guise of good old-fashioned fun.
  3. Kids might not connect with music the same way tweens are beginning to and teens always have. But this year, one of the most unexpected categories to make a comeback is headphones! And bucking other technology trends, these headphones haven’t gotten smaller, more portable – they’ve gotten bigger! The ones shown here, from Skull Candy, conceal the whole ear. They let kids (and tweens, and teens) cocoon while they tune in (and for kids, that’s as likely to be tuning in to a TV show on their portable DVD player or their parents’ laptop as it is to music). These statement sound-surrounders show that just when you thought kid products were moving in one direction, youth take a turn for the bigger.Ugly Dolls
  4. And finally, Ugly Dolls demonstrate one of our tenets of great youth brands: they live in the middle. Or more appropriately, they negotiate two seemingly contrary ideas to create a product or experience that intrigues and inspires as much as it invites. And what two concepts could make for a less likely mash-up than “ugly” and “doll”? These characters that only a kid-playing-a-mother could love give girls permission to cuddle and care in a way that doesn’t make them feel babyish themselves.  Many models of these dolls make them ready-made for the always ready-to-collect kid.  Aesthetically, these dolls not only trade in cute for quirk, but they also demonstrate the almost-homemade look that seems to characterize many of kids’ latest loves (even thought the brand has been recognized by industry insiders since 2006, when it was named the 2006 Specialty Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry of America).

Next up: top items for tweens!

Tags: kids, shopping, holiday, parenting, money

What Wishlists Tell Us About Youth

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Dec 05, 2011 @ 01:15 PM

It would be more than safe to say that the turkey and cranberry sauce had barely passed our lips when the 2011 holiday season began. But in truth, this year, the winter holidays seemed to step on the heels of Halloween! As it has for the past few years, the sport that is Black Friday continued to dominate the headlines, with workers protesting Thanksgiving evening openings, retailers desperately trying to control  crowds bursting through their doors in a 5 am deluge by staying open all night. But like the many Americans who made Cyber Monday – the armchair quarterback version of the previous Friday’s shopping sprint – the biggest in its short history, we prefer to shop online.

TV advertising of youth-targeted trinkets seems to be surging in this period (although it’s still too soon to tell how this year will compare to last), but when shopping for youth, many parents and gift-givers will rely on the implied expertise of websites to provide them with age-appropriate recommendations for every child or teen on their list. In some ways, these search engines serve as virtual concierges, curators and, in the least, filters – helping gift-givers get it right, and more importantly, avoid getting it horribly wrong this holiday season. Whether it’s, (the newest addition to the family born of or the online shops of bricks and mortar stores like Toys R’ Us, the items they recommend are sure to synch up with the biggest buys of the season. So we’ve taken some of the most commonly recommended items for each of the four age groups (preschoolers, kids, tweens and teens) and took a look at what they say about them, and why they stand out from the crowd…

In this post, we’ll focus on a few of the products that pop for preschoolers, with our take on the most recommended kid, tween and teen products to follow in the next few posts.


For parents of preschoolers, the holidays might still feel more magical than manic. Preschoolers are just coming into their own asks, but can clearly imagine and fantasize what gifts they might get on Christmas morning or on the nights of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. But they’re also easily surprised and parents can still delight them with items of their own choosing…Of course, many parents put educational products under the tree, but they’re also paying attention to their children’s budding passions (be it of the princess, pirate, or super hero variety) and looking to give them the goods that will get the biggest reaction when the bows come of the packaging.

In 2011, three products serve as symbols of the preschool market right now:Let’s Rock Elmo

  1. Let’s Rock Elmo follows in the distinguished tradition of Elmo automatons, which have managed to entertain many parents and kids in equal measure. Tickle Me Elmo may have caused a craze many holiday seasons ago (and could be seen as one of the products that, unexpectedly, started the habit of parents behaving badly in the face of toy scarcity on Black Friday), but this latest rendition seems to capture both the sweet essence of the lovable Sesame Street monster, and the precocious attitude that is increasingly ascribed to the preschool set. Preschool fashion has gone edgier (and even mainstream brands like Carter’s feature a line of products that shout “Mom Rocks” or “Dad’s a Rockstar” from 3T- and 4T- sized shirts).  This year, Let’s Rock Elmo will face-off with Rockstar Mickey, bound to be another top pick among parents of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. May the best icon win!
  2. Today’s parents of preschoolers are as likely to blog about their little boys and girls as they are about their own passions. Between sharing their best shots on photo sites like Picasso (, and capturing their every move on their cell phones, it’s no surprise that one of this year’s hottest heists lets preschoolers put their own stamp, quite literally, on the pics they take. Fisher Price’s Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera puts photography in preschoolers’ little hands, and allows them to take a picture of these little narcissists’ (which we say with affection!) favorite person, themselves, with a lens they can turn to face them. Once they’ve caught a great pic of their mom, for example, they can accessorize right on screen…Suddenly dad dons a cartoon cowboy hat on his head, or their cousin wears a clown wig. Vtech offers the Kidizoom, but we think the added assurance that the Fisher Price version can stand up to the rough play that makes us love the preschoolers with whom we reside will appeal to parents.
Whenever we talk about an age group as a whole, we inherently minimize the many differences – particularly in the consumptions habits and attitudes – of the very different types of parents who have children of any given age group. The new line of products from eco-brand Seedlings may make for a great gift from parents who prefer to buy their preschoolers do-it-yourself products with a seemingly nostalgic simplicity. With products like “make your own family” dolls, that invite girls and boys alike to turn works of art into actionable objects (not just display pieces), this brand capitalizes on parents’ desire to foster their little kids’ creative instincts, these totally self-contained craft kits (with many – like make your own car, or decorate your own magic wand - also available from Melissa and Doug) might also make family fun night a bit easier to plan.

Tags: Youth, shopping, dad, kids tweens teens, holiday, money

Teen Shopping: Insights from the Shopper Insights Conference

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 @ 12:21 PM

Last week C+R’s Mary McIlrath and Darren Breese took our shopper insights on the road at the Shopper Insights in Action conference to bring the latest on teens and shopping to an audience of marketers, retail experts and researchers. For C+R, this was the perfect opportunity to showcase, and to bring together, two of our areas of expertise: deep youth understanding and insights into the shopping habits of today’s consumers.

This presentation showcased a research method that has received much talk in the industry – using apps to get in-the-moment information and insight from respondents. In partnership with Revelations, our team conducted a Digital Shopping Immersion, in which we were able to accompany 30 teens, armed with smartphones, while they shopped. Without a researcher infringing on their space, we were able to see what they bought, what they considered, and what made this retailer the right choice for the item. In addition, we brought YouthBeat data on teen shopping habits and teen technology usage to the table, allowing us to validate our qualitative findings among a much larger sample.  And finally, we tapped into our YouthBeat qualitative panel, comprised of families from across the country, to gain additional documentary footage of teens’ favorite sites for shopping, their prized purchases and their ideal retail experiences.

In case you missed it, we thought we would share our top five insights on teens and shopping:

  1. Today’s teens spend but don’t splurge. At YouthBeat, we estimate teens’ collective net worth at just over $8 billion – so it’s no surprise that this group spends! But economic concerns have not escaped their radar. In fact, the issue that teens express most concern over right now (and for the past two years) is the economy, followed closely by “joblessness.” It makes sense that this cohort has grown up with more sensitivity towards sales, and more common sense when it comes to how they spend. When we asked their parents how the economy has affected their teens, we see that teens continue to shop, but they’re more cautious with their cash than in previous years:Teen SHopping
  2. Shopping is more social than ever. For teens, buying has always been just a part of the shopping puzzle. From mall crawls to vintage store scavenger hunts, teens have always approached shopping as a social scene. Today’s teens continue to see shopping as social – noting that their friends influence their purchases more than most other sources. But today’s teens have other ways to make shopping social. They can share potential picks via Facebook, and they can text their friends with advice on what to try-on. But one word of caution – social networks play a more limited role in shopping than we might think, even among today’s networked teens. They rarely “like” brands, and while they may look for deals on social networks, they’re unlikely to put products ahead of gossip when prioritizing their online time.
  3. Online shopping helps teens browse, then buy.  Many retailers measure the success of their ecommerce sites buy the amount of items in the shopping cart. This might be a bad move if your customer is a 14 to 18 year old! While our YouthBeat data shows that over half have shopped online in the past month, they’re more likely to be browsing than buying. Between not having the means (i.e., an accessible credit card or gift card) and preferring the experiential aspects of shopping, teens are more likely to use retailer websites to comparison shop, and to pre-select items from among their favorite stores. They also look for customer reviews to help them sort through what really fits, what works, and what’s worth a dip into their savings. If they can find the right product, without spending a lot on shipping, they may be willing to ask mom or dad for their account number. But for the most part, retailers should focus on making websites fun and functional for teen browsing. As a bonus, build in sharing features that let them turn virtual  “window” shopping into a chance to spread the word to their friends.
  4. The ideal shopping experience entertains and informs. Because shopping is often a form of entertainment for teens, make sure your retail environments are up to snuff. Provide well-stocked shelves that allow for a constant refreshing of inventory. Teens love to visit stores to see what’s new – and if you’re not offering them something new, they’re less likely to stop by for a visit. Teens’ ultimate shopping experiences let them touch and feel the merchandise without feeling like they’re being watched. Walmart learned this lesson, letting teens play games in store, making them an likely favorite among teens’ list of top shops. Finally, great shopping environments give teens a chance to participate, so provide low-cost items that allow everyone to walk away with something when they’re shopping en masse.
  5. Fast fashion and instant gratification trumps the need for luxury. From Forever 21 to Target, today’s teens are willing to sacrifice a luxury brand for fashion that they can afford. Cheaper fashion items not only get them in the game, but they make them feel less guilty when they’re ready to update their looks (which even less trend-savvy teens do on a regular basis). In contrast to a few years ago, when teens were carrying expensive purses and donning pricey athletic shoes, today’s teens are willing to go a bit lower if it means making their money stretch further. And this applies to technology as well – teens sometimes get overwhelmed by too many features, so make sure you make the shopping process simple. When teens feel smart, they extend that halo to your brand (i.e., if they feel smart, you look smart).

    So what’s a teen retailer to do?

    1. Give them options as a range of price points – and always help them feel like they got a great price.
    2. Focus on making the shopping experience social, but only use social networks when it makes sense.
    3. Use websites as tools for research, but also as ways to tempt teens into your store, where the sale will really happen.
    4. Put the goods in their hands…Let them touch and feel and always make them comfortable when they’re browsing.
    Give them items that don’t require intense investment, and provide them with opportunities to experiment with their look and their style when they’re in store.

    Tags: research, Youth, Teens, shopping

    Were kids’, tweens’ and teens wishes fulfilled this holiday season?

    Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Feb 02, 2011 @ 01:41 PM

    As our pre-holiday “wishlist” survey showed, high-ticket electronics were the top “asks” for the 2010 season…But we wanted to know how many kids, tweens and teens actually got what they wanted from the list of most frequently requested items. We know that many youth covet iPads and iPhones (are you sensing a trend?), but most had previously settled for desktops and cell phones that stick to the basics. Would this season’s gifts signal a significant shift in youth ownership of cutting edge devices?

    In January, we conducted a mini-survey of just over 400 kids and tweens ages 6 to 12, and found that more kids than we expected were lucky enough to receive an iPad (12%). The iPod Touch was most likely to be received among all the choices we gave them, which isn’t surprising as many kids in this age group would have received Kid andTweenTable 1their first iPod this year – and why not go big! Kinect, by Xbox beat Sony’s Move by a longshot. Still, almost half reported missing out on all of the wishlist items that we heard so much about in the pre-holiday weeks. And despite impressive sales of digital readers this season, kids only contributed small numbers to the flock of new users of these paper-replacing devices.

    In a poll of 164 teens ages 14 to 17, teens were actually less likely to receive these items for the holidays than their younger counterparts with 57% having received none of the items we listed.  Perhaps this is because they were more likely to have some of these higher-priced technologies already. But like younger youth, they were most likely to get an iPod Touch. They were, however more likely to get their hands on an iPhone…Teen Table

    While it may have seemed that EVERYBODY got these gadgets over the holidays, and even moreso if you’re a kid who did not the truth is that these technologies continue to be enjoyed by a minority of youth. We’ll see how the numbers net out when we look at information from a broader sample of kids and teens, but for now it looks like just a few more kids, tweens and teens added to the slowly growing numbers of users of these technologies.

    Tags: kids, wish list, Teens, shopping, holiday, tweens