Marketers Must Integrate Teens Offline And Online Worlds For Sales Success

What comes to mind when you envision the behavior of a "typical" teenage girl? Today, we think of a young girl shopping at the mall, surrounded by her BFFs (best friends), glued to her iPhone (or BlackBerry or Android), most likely simultaneously texting with the 15 friends who aren't at the mall, while refreshing her Facebook to see if anyone has posted new content or status updates. Today's teenage girl is the ultimate multi-tasker.

Marketers are challenged to get through the plethora of media channels to reach the American teenage market, a powerful demographic despite its limited disposable income and/or allowance. However, with the rise of activity on mobile devices and the social web, marketers can actually capitalize on these more direct channels to reach this group of young consumers.

Teens are big mobile users and gaining on the smartphone market -- one out of every three 12-17 year olds own a smartphone. But they're not exactly using their devices for calling; in fact, aside from senior citizens, they're talking the least on the phone. It's more about texting and social media.

Teens value real social interaction with their friends. They're eager to spend time away from their parents and to be socializing with their friends, both physically and digitally. So, it's no wonder that when given a mobile device, teens are looking for the easiest ways to connect with them. They're sending more than 3,000 texts on average each month.

Teens are also a huge piece of the social media pie. According to Arbitron & Edison research, 43% of all U.S. consumers ages 12 and older were mobile social networkers in February of 2011, up from 32 % in 2010. As smartphones become the standard rather than traditional feature phones, eMarketer predicts 31% of mobile users will be using smartphones. The amount of time teens (or anyone for that matter) spend on social networks on their mobile is increasing rapidly as well.

Facebook now has 250 million mobile users and, more importantly, mobile users are twice as active as non-mobile users. According to March 2011 comScore data, the number of uniques across all mobile social networking sites is on the rise, growing 46% in the last three months.

Looking at retail purchase decisions specifically, a teenage girl that enters a store, with friends at her side and a mobile phone in hand will be influenced by several factors: her peers' opinions; any research conducted via mobile web; and any feedback presented via Facebook.

In fact, according to a recent study by Knowledge Networks and MediaPost's own Center for Media Research, there are now 80 million people using social media on their mobile phones. These on-the-go consumers are now viewing mobile social media use as a necessary step in the purchase process. By paying close attention to these behavioral patterns, brand marketers can recognize these trends and present opportunities to reach this young, impressionable, and tech savvy audience.

So how can brands embrace this increasingly mobile consumer teen? Facebook and Twitter are part of the puzzle, but there should be an overall campaign that integrates social and physical stores to drive the shopping experience. Perhaps a QR code next to the store entrance could be a link for shoppers to tweet about a possible purchase ... or maybe a discount offer if customers follow the brand while in-store. Facebook Places or Foursquare check-in rewards with coupons and daily specials. The possibilities are available to retailers today.

The key to reaching today's American teen effectively is to reach them on multiple channels, marrying both their online and offline worlds. Clearly the importance of the brick-and-mortar experience still remains. But a strategic integration with mobile and social is a recipe for sales success.

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