Online retailers are ignoring the huge potential of the teenage market, according to a report out this week by KMPG Consulting and high street bank Natwest.
Around 80 per cent of teenagers - aged between 12 and 16 years old - are keen to buy goods online, according to the report. Teenagers represent an annual spending power of £400 million per year which online retailers could tap into, but the majority are ignoring the demand.
"Teenagers now represent a 'digital generation' - the first group to have grown up in an environment in which computing - including the Net - is as familiar as the telephone," explained Paul Baker, partner responsible for ecommerce at KPMG Consulting.
"However, apart from well known youth brands, businesses are simply not taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the Internet," he explained.
The teenage focus group for the report complained, for example, that prices were usually shown in US dollars, without an option to convert currencies.
"This shows a lack of research on the part of some companies to get some fundamentals of Web site design and marketing right," he said.
The report discovered that teenagers prefer to shop online as opposed to the high street because they are not discriminated against on account of their age. As credit cards are not an option for teenagers, many found great difficulty in completing transactions. Debit cards are an option, but many sites do not accept them yet.
David Bloomfield, head of youth banking at Natwest, said the number of sites that accept debit cards is growing slowly.
"Natwest is committed to a digital future, and with teenagers empowered to make purchases over the Net this will become a reality," he said. "But it is down to retailers and service providers to adopt appropriate payment systems if they are committed to making this happen."
Most arguments in households, however, still revolve around who is paying for the telephone calls to be online. The report concludes that companies selling to teenagers may need to consider ways to absorb or reduce the cost of calls.
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