Teens buy twice as much online versus adults

teen smartphone
Teens shop online twice as much as adults.

Online purchases accounted for almost 18% of shopping by teenagers in September, twice the rate at which adults bought online.

According to a recent survey by Current, a financial technology company, more than half of teen spending online, 54%, was used for digital content. Video games represented 39.3%, and streaming and online services represented 14.6% of teenage spending online. 

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Unsurprisingly, 38% of teens' online spending goes to Amazon.com, excluding digital content. When it comes to shopping for cosmetics and clothing, teens often go to brand sites. The most popular websites for clothing include Forever21, Nike, Victoria's Secret, PacSun and Van's—together accounting for more than 9% of all online sales. Cosmetics accounted for 7.7% of online spending in September, dominated by trips to Sephora, which captured 5.4% of online purchases by teens. 

Online discount retailers are also a popular spot for teens to shop, capturing 13.8% of online transactions, excluding digital content. Of those sites, Wish.com gets 7.8% of all sales, second to Amazon. 

So what should retailers be doing differently to capture this savvy, online teen shopper?

Teens not only shop online, they shop via mobile, so optimizing websites for mobile is critical, according to Stuart Sopp, CEO of Current. 

"We'd be surprised if most retailers didn't report that 50-plus percent of their site traffic comes from mobile browsers, maybe as high as 75% with more youth-oriented brands. Knowing that, retailers also need to think about how their shopping experience relates to their customer's social media behavior, and maximize the effectiveness of their marketing and customer acquisition on mobile platforms," Sopp told FierceRetail. 

Mobile is also a strong channel within the walls of a physical store and a big draw for teenagers. 

"Smart branding marketing requires a broad mix of tactics, but ignoring the role of mobile devices in that mix would be a mistake," Sopp said. 

Also, looking at this study from Current, Sopp also suggests re-examining what brand loyalty, and customer loyalty, programs look like.

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"It is clear teens are extremely brand loyal in some categories, just look at how Sephora and Ulta dominate cosmetic sales. But in others they are less so. As much as they purchase from Victoria's Secret and American Eagle, they are also willing to take chances on online retailers like fashionnova.com, or heavily discount knock-off retailers like shein.com and romwe.com," he said. 

Looking forward, he believes that while adults will continue to adopt online shopping, it will happen at a slower rate than with teens, who are used to completing almost every task with a mobile phone.

"As today's teens age into college and adulthood they will push the overall numbers up," Sopp said.

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