Everything you've been hearing about teen girls living on Facebook, friending their favorite brands and influencing hundreds of future purchases with the single click of the "like" button? A new report from Euro RSCG suggests it's all wrong, and that teen girls share shopping secrets the way they always have -- with only their closest friends, and even then, not online.
"Facebook and MySpace are very public," Karina Meckel, director of strategic planning, tells Marketing Daily. "But while 8 out of 10 girls use social media, we've found that teen girls don't like to talk about shopping there. When they find a good deal, they're interested in tipping off a few close friends, not broadcasting it. These girls aren't moving and shopping in flocks, as many marketers believe. They closely select very small, intimate groups -- it's a sisterhood."
About 65% of the 100 girls ages 13 to 18 included in the study say that when their favorite brand or store has a sale, they tell their best friend or sister; 57% say that when they find out about a new trend, they share it with a best friend or sister. But only 5% do so via Facebook (where she typically has 100 or so friends), and only 5% use IMs. Even factoring in Twitter and email, only a quarter of teen girls turn to social or online media. The rest use word-of-mouth, usually via phone or text message.
The study also found that just 19% say they become fans of favorite brands on Facebook; 56% say they don't do so.
For teen girls, shopping with these close friends is also important: On trips with her BFF or sister, she spends 23% more than when shopping with two or more friends. "Being able to rely on an honest opinion is what really matters to her," Meckel says.
In fact, 72% say their sister/best friend knows them better than anyone else -- and that rises to 84% among 15-year-olds, and 87% of 16-year-olds. And these are cherished friendships: Overall, 64% believe a sister/best friend is the most important relationship in life; among 15-year-olds, 74% believe that.
The study also found that while teens are influenced by national trends and brands, "they are also hyper-local," she says. Some 52% typically shop at places near home, and 75% prefer to shop in stores rather than online.
While their desire to fit in is as intense as ever, mid-teens are also especially eager to stand out -- at least a little. While 59% of teen girls overall wish they could customize or personalize more of their clothing and accessories, 84% of 15-year-olds do. And 74% of 15-year-olds consider themselves stylish, trendy, or cool, compared with 58% overall. "Girls don't want to be the first person to discover the trend," she says. "They want to be the second one, and the one who tells others about it."
The study also found that the recession has not affected the shopping habits of teens all that strongly. "They're still getting an allowance," Meckel says, "even if circumstances have forced parents to lower it." But they are far more practical and price-focused than many marketers assume. "Overall, these girls are not very impulsive shoppers, and are willing to wait. They're looking for the nexus of brand and price coming together, and they are patient."