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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The fearless net + teen-consumer equation
Article Type: Executive insight From: Young Consumers, Volume 9, Issue 3
When Visa and American Express both placed bets on the teen generation, they both launched their own new-look card, targeting an audience that would stun most people: teenagers from 12 to 18.
Since the launch of both products, hundreds of thousands of teens in the USA have signed up for one of the debit cards. Both cards can be controlled by parents who have oversight over every detail, including which establishments the card may be used at.
There are lots of positive and negative angles to this concept. But, for now, let us concentrate on one sure thing: these teen products are probably here to stay. Why? Well, they are bound to become invaluable marketing tools. Simultaneously, they enthral their target market (donating a sense of consumer independence a teenager is unlikely to renounce), and give marketers a ready set of enviable opportunities. Let us summarise the situation: the fastest-growing of market segments, which also happens to be the largest online audience segment, the quickest-learning online segment and the segment likely to become the biggest spending group in consumerdom – the teens – is now able to purchase stuff online.
Given this development, it is interesting to note that few marketers seem to have recognized the opportunity this scenario presents. Visit some of the largest teen sites and read the small print. It advises that only persons 18 years of age and over are actually allowed to make purchases. And if this condition is not stipulated, at least one site in ten presumes itself to be addressing grownups in the e-commerce zone. This approach is negligent of the fact that, by now, at least thousands of potential teen visitors have their own debit cards.
This active e-commerce consumer group brings with it stringent demands and characteristics that are quite different from those embodied in the adult online consumer. The teen audience, for instance, is an audience which does not necessarily fancy the same type of warranties or purchase guarantees that grownups demand. This is an audience, which is substantially more computer and Internet literate than other online consumer groups. This is an audience which is constantly looking for a different selection of products. But it is also an audience, which is highly brand loyal, and which adapts readily to new brands that manage to hit the right note and appeal to the consumers’ profile appropriately. In short, this is a user group, which, by this analysis, may yet offer the most attractive prospects for ongoing online patronage. The teen consumer group is fundamental to the future well being of internet commerce.
Several decades ago, an Australian bank established a school-banking system, giving all kids direct access to their own bank accounts. The bank was, and still is, appealing to youngest of audiences by introducing children to banking in their infants-school years. The rationale is, of course, that school banking introduces these young minds to the habit of banking, to the concepts of saving and investing. Even though the school-banking system costs a fortune to operate, it still runs today. Why? Because the strategy behind the rationale remains cogent: school banking introduces customers to their bank early in life and, every year, adds new future adult customers to this infant foundation.
All research demonstrates that loyalty is created in the consumer’s younger years. So, brands that appeal to teens will be remembered by those teens as they enter their adult consumer lives. And those brands will enjoy a loyalty from that early-won group that is unlike the loyalty they will ever receive from any other consumer group.
Whether I like the launch of debit cards for teens or not there is no doubt that the innovation represents the real genesis of a new online audience – the teens. Here is an audience that has always, I say always, had access to the Internet since its members could figure out how to use a computer. For this group the Internet has nothing to do with computer fear, and for this group computer fear does not exist.
Martin LindstromThe author of BRAND sense and BRAND child.