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Millennials VS Teens: What Marketers Need to Know

We’ve rounded up the most important differences on marketing to teens and Millennials…

Although they share many of the values and behaviors as older Millennials, teens today are different from teens ten years ago—and those differences have already begun to reshape certain industries and impact marketing. Growing up during Great Recession, today’s teens can be frugal and wary, and are placing great importance on their education and career paths. While older Millennials were first generation digital, teens are digital natives, with no memory or context of a time before social media and 24/7 connection to their friends. Of course, some major differences between teens and Millennials are based on their very different life stages.

Depending on their target market, it can be important for brands to note the differences between the two consumer groups. Here are some more important things to know:

Millennials Will Come to You, Teens Will Not

Millennials value convenience, and if having a direct line to brands makes their lives easier they will make it happen. Over half of 18-33-year-olds with smartphones currently use a brand’s or store’s app, which makes sense considering the top reason the age group downloads an app is because it makes something or solves a problem. Only 38% of 13-17-year-old smartphone owners can say they have a brand’s or store’s app on their phone, with the majority telling us that fun apps are the ones they most often choose to download. We see a similar difference on social media: about seven in ten 18-33-year-olds follow a brand on social media, compared to 56% of 13-17-year-olds.

Because teens are not as likely to actively seek out brand info, brands targeting teens have to go to them and act cool about it. Recommendations from friends or family are most valuable to teens when making purchase decisions, and 44% of 13-17-year-olds say they think of online celebrities as their friends—including the beloved personalities on YouTube. The site has become a goldmine for marketers who want to seem less like a brand and more like a friend. According to Time, authenticity is key for teens who see influencers as “friends” and they appreciate their transparency about getting paid. They “trust [that influencers] wouldn’t sell a product they didn’t believe in.” Chatbots have also been growing opportunity to reach out to younger consumers in a place they’re already spending their time: 73% of 13-17-year-olds are opening up messaging apps weekly, and 56% say they’re are open to communicating with a brand or store’s chatbot, compared to 41% of 18-33-year-olds.

Teens Are More Open to the In-Store Experience, Millennials Are Increasingly Online Shoppers 

Although teens were born into the world of advanced technologies, particularly online shopping, only 35% of 13-17-year-olds say they would rather shop online over a physical store, while over half of 18-33-year-old say the same. For tech products, 51% of teens say they prefer online shopping compared to 61% of Millennials, and only 17% of 13-17-year-olds would rather shop online for clothes over going to an actual store. Even in our recent data for back-to-school shopping, we found that 77% of teens did all or most of their shopping in-store—24% more than Millennials. This difference is likely driven by lifestage: Millennials are far more likely to have the credit or debit cards needed to online shop, and to see online shopping as a necessity because of their busy schedules. Teens, on the other hand, are more likely to need an in-store trip to shop, and see it as a leisure activity.

In our Experiencification trend research, we found over six in ten of teens see stores as a place for them and their friends to hang out, while only 40% of 18-33-year-olds feel the same—restaurants and bars are likely a more appealing place to go with friends for this older group. Struggling clothing retailers potentially have the most to gain from this insight as they attempt new strategies to get more young consumer foot traffic.

For Teens, Playing Safe Is Out of Style

When Millennials were piecing together their identities as teens, retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Aéropostale, and American Eagle provided the logo-emblazoned clothing that would help them fit in with the “cool kids.” But teens today are looking to stand out from the crowd, and the logoed, “conformist,” “high school uniform” fell out of vogue with young consumers who want people to notice what they wear. Over half of 13-17-year-olds say they rather stand out than fit in, and 43% say they shop for clothes/accessories that are ‘one of a kind,’ compared to 46% and 38% of 18-33-year-olds respectively. When asked to describe their personal style, Millennials are more likely than teens to say casual, normal, and safe, while teens are more likely to say cool, authentic, and unique. Teens are also more likely than older Millennials to agree that they don’t follow fashion trends and have their own personal style.

Expressing individuality is important to Millennials, but teens have embraced the idea at an even younger age, spurring the trend even further. Brands that play it safe, encourage them to stick to a uniform, or neglect to celebrate their differences aren’t going to appeal. 

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.