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Marketing to Teens & Tweens

Posted on 9.30.2013

Under- or unemployed, living with their parents and spending hours of their day on social media…sounds a bit like “20 somethings” we all might know, but unlike their older counterparts, Generation Z members haven’t racked up credit card or student loan debt and are in the good buying graces of their parents. This audience segment is a win-win for marketers.

Since the growing tween (8-12 years old) and teen (13-17 years old) market represents an extremely engaged community, as well as one that quickly acclimates to new channels, it’s a no brainer to vie for this audience’s attention and dollars. Marketing to this valuable segment, however, requires insights into its persuasions, limitations and expectations.

Underage, Not Underfunded

From movies and makeup to apparel and apps, tweens and teens are active, impulsive spenders. In fact, 80 percent of teenage girls identify shopping as one of their “hobbies and activities,” (source:, yet the same research indicates that only 26 percent of teens have placed an online order in the past three months. It’s safe to assume those even younger (tweens) have made fewer online purchases. Limited payment options are likely to blame. The cash-fueled environment most teens and tweens find themselves in doesn’t bode well for online merchants.

“Retailers who have products that are designed for tweens and teens tend to have very high shopping cart dropout rates,” said Dr. Jo Webber, founder and CEO of Virtual Piggy. “They have engaged the teen or tween with their brand, the consumer then goes to the site and loads up their cart, but then has to try to get a payment method. This delay leads to cart drop off.”

There are also legal issues. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) dictates that websites cannot ask for personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13 (tweens). This makes it challenging for websites to engage with tweens and almost impossible for websites to accept transactions from them.

“Virtual Piggy is the only company to date that provides merchant e-commerce websites with a COPPA-compliant solution for tween spending,” said Webber. “Our solution safeguards the teen or tweens’ identity while providing a mechanism to allow parent-approved spending.”

This parent-controlled youth wallet allows young “unbanked” teens and tweens to shop at their favorite retailers and gaming sites. Virtual Piggy offers plugins for the major e-commerce systems including Demandware, Oracle ATG and eBay’s Magento platform.

Fathead, which sells wall decals and cutouts of entertainment and sports stars, leverages Virtual Piggy. It has found that the payment platform allows its young fans to make their own buying decisions, while Fathead remains in control of privacy components.

“We take our customers’ privacy very seriously and that’s particularly important if advertising is directed at minors,” said Joanna Cline, chief marketing officer at Fathead. “What’s great about Virtual Piggy is that the payment system is so secure, we have confidence we’re connecting with teens and tweens in an appropriate way, which is also a great experience for the young people, the parents and us.”

Visa, PayPal and other financial heavy hitters have also released products over the years that make it easier for teenagers to purchase items on the Web. For teenage-friendly online payment options that merchants should consider promoting, visit

Channels Count

Generation Z members have never lived in a world without the Internet, cellphones and social networks, albeit those technologies have evolved. Wikia published a 2013 study that explored the behaviors of teens and technology and found that half of GenZers spend almost every waking hour online, connecting 10-plus hours daily. Comparatively, TNS & McAfee’s 2013 research discovered 67 percent of tweens are using a social network despite age requirements.

So what does this mean for marketers? In short, brands need to find innovative ways to reach this target demographic across channels — like FPgirl does. With its gift card program, parent participation and “girl-driven” community, FPgirl is a brand to watch. Girls ages 5-12 can design their own clothing, order the items and have them shipped. By also partnering with brands GenZ girls love, FPgirl has driven registered users from 35,000 at the end of 2011 to nearly 1 million by May 2013. Learn more about FPgirl’s engagement model here.

Marketing to Teens and Tweens Checklist
Is your enterprise making the grade?

Mobile ad network MobiGirl Media also helps brands connect with young girls through this demographic’s most-used apps, while Brandwatch, a social media monitoring and analytics tool, can reveal teen and tween sentiment about brands or trends. Marketers can use the latter to help tailor their messages to these attitudes. For instance, by using Brandwatch to listen to online conversations about going back to school, ads can be tailored to the overwhelmingly use of the sad face emoticon by teens and tweens. 

In the end, however, messaging to teens and tweens needs to be transparent and age and gender appropriate to appease users, COPPA and parents. “The key is that it resonates with the teenager without alienating the parent,” said Cline. “It’s also good to have an authentic marketing message that resonates to both groups. Parents are very cautious with who messages directly to their children and teen/ tweens are a very discerning group. They can spot corporate hype a mile away. Be real with your message.”

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