Factors that drive teenage retail purchases

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 24, 2015

Price, brand, and a friend's recommendation were found to be the most influential in purchase decisions, with celebrity endorsement being seen as inconsequential, QR codes rarely being scanned, and online shopping being preferred to physical stores thanks to the availability of brands' shopping apps, according to a study of teenage girls' shopping habits by event organiser EasyFairs.

When it comes to packaging teenage girls love limited edition packs and special deals; rarely use QR codes; switch between low-cost brands; view celebrity endorsement as irrelevant and are clueless on packaging symbols.

The study tracked the daily routine of teenage girls when shopping online and offline. Over a three week period, a focus group of ten girls aged 17 years recorded daily journals, logged every search and detailed their day-to-day shopping habits. They completed a buying task and answered questions about brands and packaging to determine what really influences their purchasing decisions.

Among the key findings of the study:

  • Three quarters of teenage girls prefer to shop online than in-store
  • Shop up to three times a week
  • Spend an average of 30 minutes to an hour per day online
  • Make their purchasing decision within a 10-20 minute timeframe
  • Are 65% more likely to buy online than in store
  • Are influenced by price, brand, and their friends

The top ten bloggers/vloggers influencing teenage girls are currently (starting with the most popular): Zoella, Beauty crush, Fashion Influx, She Wears Fashion, Pretty Sickly, Sunbeams Jess, The Persian Babe, So Totally Vlog, Lily Melrose, and Tanya Burr.

Key Influencers
Price, brand, and a friend's recommendation were found to be the most influential when choosing a product, followed by packaging, social media advertising and blogger/vlogger endorsement from the likes of Zoella, Beautycrush, Fashion Influx and She Wears Fashion.

TV and radio advertising were viewed as least important, and celebrity endorsement was seen as inconsequential.

When deciding whether to purchase a product - special deals, brand name, limited edition packs and personalised packaging were all weighed up as deciding factors; all this was done in a 10 to 20 minute timeframe showing how considered, yet speedy, female teenagers are.

The girls preferred online shopping due to the increase in apps making the brands easy to access and readily available; they browsed four to five websites at any one time to find the best offer.

"The rise in online shopping has been witnessed for some time, and it immediately questions what the future holds for traditional retail outlets. After John Lewis announced its hugely successful festive takings, it was hinted that it no longer required hundreds of high street outlets. But what does this mean for brands generally but also more specifically the packaging sector?" asked Alison Church, Event Director for Easyfairs' UK packaging events. "It means it will have to work harder, especially for consumer packaged goods. Packaging is a vital tool in the de-selection process, such as the images used for brand identification and product confirmation online, including limited edition packs and personalisation. Secondary packaging is also vitally important, not only to protect the product, but to deliver the 'wow' factor, that correctly portrays a brand's identity when ordered online and delivered by post."

The study found that when a brand or item was less well-known the girls would rely on the pictures portraying the product, alongside customer and blogger reviews. YouTube was also used to gain further insight on the product.

Teenagers were found to remain loyal to their favourite brands even if its packaging wasn't up to scratch, especially when purchasing premium goods.

However, they are more likely to switch between lower-cost brands due to the product's packaging; in the beauty sector particularly iconic packaging could easily sway a purchase.

Shopping Task
During the three weeks, each teenager was given up to 35 to spend online to purchase a product, record how quickly it was delivered, and describe their thoughts on the primary and secondary packaging.

Purchases ranged from a lipstick to a pair of shoes. Quite often it was from a brand they already knew and had previously purchased with online.

The girls in the study recorded that they wanted the buying process to be particularly easy, and to know the delivery would be reliable and within three to five working days; anything outside this delivery remit was considered far too long.

When the parcels arrived, only Topshop, for its polka dot covered box, and Boohoo, for its festive theme packaging, were viewed positively. The rest were classed as uninteresting and not doing the brand justice.

None of the girls thought the product was over-packed; and branded or iconic packaging was usually kept. Difficult to open products were viewed negatively. Six out of the ten stated the packaging was an essential part of the product, and the majority wanted the product bought online to be gift wrapped especially for them.

Labelling was seen as key when purchasing beauty products, girls immediately wanting to assess instructions of use, where it was made and chemical ingredients. It was also found to be important to the food and drink sector with nutritional information, calories and best-before dates being the main drivers of a purchasing decision.

QR codes were rarely scanned, but on the occasions that they were it was usually a magazine promotion or a product's packaging that drove this consumer engagement; however the interest in future use wasn't overwhelming.

Only two out of the ten would go on a brand's Facebook and Twitter pages after seeing the social media icons on the packaging.

Social media icons were recognised immediately, but when questioned further on packaging symbols, their knowledge was vague. Only one in the group actually knew what the Leaping Bunny logo meant.

Only half were familiar with 'Keep Britain Tidy', but all recognised the Fairtrade and recycling symbols, but only half will recycle the packaging - the rest don't think about it or leave it to the parents!

Bags and Packaging
Many will reuse store bags such as Selfridges, Jack Wills, Michael Kors and so forth and will hold on to stylish iconic packaging, just because they like it. Benefit Cosmetics was often cited for its unique packaging, along with Kate Spade and Ted Baker, but Nike shoe boxes and MAC make-up packaging were also kept.

On the whole they viewed packaging 'as doing its job - transporting the product, but rather boring'. The high-end brands received more praise for their packaging when the items were neatly packed and gift wrapped. Such packaging was perceived as an 'added bonus' and made the extra expense seem worth it.

Charlotte Vass, one of the girls taking part in the research, commented about Chanel's packaging: "All packaging has the same house style, unless limited edition, the colours work really well and the products mirror the packaging, which always looks good; also Chanel is very often gift-wrapped."

Laura Stringer made similar remarks about Pandora's packaging: "Pretty packaging; it is nice packaging for a gift. Really like its limited edition packs."

When asked what their three favourite brands were MAC, NARS and Pandora came out on top. The packaging was viewed as simple, yet stylish with a luxurious feel.

"These savvy shoppers have forced marketers to rethink their strategy. Ask any of them what their favourite brands are, and they will rattle off a list of names their parents bank on - Topshop, Zara, New Look, Boots - but what's more surprising is that these teenage girls are seeking to purchase from high-end brands like Space NK, Tiffany & Co and Chanel not just for the brand name, but for the luxurious packaging and chic gift wrapping options that come with the products," concluded Church. "Having grown up in a media-saturated, brand-conscious world, marketers need to capture their attention differently and bring the messaging to the one place they meet - the internet. Companies unable to click and show what their products entail will lose out on this vast market, and could find the doors are thrown open to new competitors who are packaging and marketing their products far more uniquely to their target audiences."

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