Capture the Elusive Teenage Demographic

Teenagers are as unpredictable as the weather happy and sunny one hour and then clouding over with the storms the next. Teenagers are about as fickle as they come much to the dismay of parents and teachers everywhere.

Retailers who cater to these consumers are equally baffled and have spent the last several years trying to figure out what teens want, how to communicate with this target audience and what price points are acceptable.

Teenagers are more aware

The teenage category has changed drastically over the last several years. These shoppers have grown up with technology and desire innovative, fresh ideas. They have Smartphones, iPads and iPods and they know (unlike me) how to use all of the buttons and features. Teens know exactly what they are looking for, what it costs and where to find it. They are not going to the mall to browse racks of clothes and try on endless piles of jeans– they have already gone online, shopped around, solicited opinions from their friends and made a decision.

This is bad news for traditional retail favorites like the GAP and Abercrombie & Fitch. Over the course of the last decade, it’s become more complicated to be a teen and dress a teen. If you remember dressing in head-to-toe Esprit and Aerospostale when you were in high school, you may be disappointed to hear that today’s teenagers are much more discerning. It’s no longer about the same brand for everything, now it’s all about mixing and matching to create an individual style.

Mainstays take a hit

Stores that used to be mainstays Abercrombie & Fitch, Aerospostale and American Eagle, to name a few, are fending off some serious competition as new trends emerge.  “Fast fashion” stores like H&M, Forever 21 and Uniqlo, which specialize in taking pieces from the runway, reproducing them quickly and inexpensively and making them available to consumers, have gained a foothold. Traditional retailers haven’t been able to keep up with these changes, causing some industry observers to note than if they can’t adapt more quickly, they are going to lose their customer base permanently to those who can.

Further complicating the landscape is a shake-up at the top, where a lot of companies are seeing a change in leadership, switching out C-level executives for others and mixing things up the store level. Styles and fits that were flying off the shelves last year are no longer cutting it, so new products are being tested and stores themselves are being refreshed. As eCommerce gains momentum, teen retailers are also paying more attention to their websites and how items are marketed.

So how do we know what teens want?

Today’s teens are tech-savvy with disposable income more than 29 percent live in homes where the average income is $100,000 are more. They are fascinated by gossip, photos and blogs and what celebrities wear helps dictate what teens want to buy. They may not be able to afford the designer gown Selena Gomez was wearing in a magazine, but a similar dress that’s available at H&M for a fraction of the price may fly off the shelves.

Tracking Teens’ Buying Habits Helps

One of the most effective ways for you to see if your marketing or product line is resonating with any target group is a traffic counting system or loyalty program. A loyalty program that is tied into the POS system will reward a shopper for their purchase and brand loyalty but also give you a goldmine of data you can use to evaluate your store’s performance. The data can tell you what your customers are buying, how often they are shopping and at what price point.

Sometimes it seems like teenage behavior is a mystery to almost everyone except teens themselves. Smart retailers should implement technology that will help them decipher teenagers’ buying habits, or they may possibly find themselves awash in stock they cannot sell and marketing campaigns that aren’t resonating.