You Buy With Your Eyes: How to Attract Teen Eyes -- And Dollars -- In-Store

Ah, the fickle teenager. This choosy consumer has been known to send sales soaring for one brand or retailer this year only to abandon ship for fresher choices the next. But while their allegiances may be fleeting, teens don’t hesitate to buy when they fall for a product. So how do you woo erratic teens? Try making this your new mantra: Seeing is buying. 

We all know that teens live a rich digital life—texting and Facebooking—but when it’s time to buy, these young consumers prefer to venture out into the real world. According to Harris Interactive, 82% of teens prefer to shop in-store rather than online. Plus, teens make 26% more trips to the mall than other shoppers, totaling approximately 47 times per year, says data from Teenage Research Unlimited.

Once they’re in-store, teens shop with their eyes. They’re making purchasing decisions based on a wide range of visual cues—from signage and displays to packaging and product colors. Here are a few tactics we discovered through peer-to-peer teen research to help you win sales in-store: 

Turn your store displays into a runway. To borrow a phrase from “Project Runway”’s Tim Gunn, show teen clothing shoppers how to “make it work.” Mix and match styles on mannequins and create displays that give teens fashion-forward ideas for wearing your products. “Clothes really catch my eye when I see them on a model,” says Faith, 15. “Seeing someone else wear it helps me picture myself wearing it, which is much more powerful than just seeing it on shelf.” 

Think in-store signage featuring models showing off exactly how that sweater or necklace looks—even seeing clothes on retail associates can help make the sale. “If it looks good on someone else, it gives you the confidence that it’ll look good on you as well,” says Carla, also 15. 

Drive impulse buys with on-trend package designs. First impressions count. Packaging that features trendy colors, patterns or designs can reflect the personal style of teens and give them a reason to pick up your product. “I’ve bought makeup because of the cute packaging,” says Tiffany, 19. “I get extremely attracted to busy and cute-looking stuff with pastel colors, which matches the person I am.” 

Kimberly-Clark plays off this teen impulse brilliantly with U by Kotex and U by Kotex Tween. The packaging breaks category norms with black boxes, high contrast colors and vibrant patterns. “I love U by Kotex because of their colors!” noted one of our respondents. “It already sucks that I have my period so opening up a box to a bunch of neon fun-colored pads brightens my day—makes me more positive.” 

Keep teen shoppers entertained. Teens grew up on the constant visual information available online, so retail needs to deliver a fun, interactive experience, too. Look for ways to surprise and delight with product selection and the overall environment. “Urban Outfitters is a fun store to just walk around because they’ve got cool stuff: books, toys and other things,” says Danny, 19. 

Mini boutiques or “eye candy” can also keep teens engaged and coming back for more. “I love Forever 21, especially for their different-themed sections of clothing like the “Little Black Dress” section and the “Pep Rally” section,” notes Carly, 15. Even food retailers can delight teens with the right atmosphere. “I’m all about Trader Joe’s,” says Sofia, 19. “I love all the workers there, very friendly, and they all have different Hawaiian shirts! Their signage is incredible, 2-D lettering coming off the walls and quirky sayings. Free samples!”

Static advertising and simple retail displays simply won’t cut it for this audience. The competition for teens’ attention is strong and requires a high-octane marketing strategy that matches their fun-loving, visual style.

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