How Digital Usage Fits into Teens’ Buying Habits

As with video viewing, digital technology has taken a large role in teens’ shopping without altogether replacing older methods. We estimate that 61.8% of 14- to 17-year-olds in the US will be digital buyers next year. Though substantial, that’s lower than the penetration rates of all other age groups younger than 65.

According to our new report “At the Core of Gen Z,” the figure for teens is likely held down somewhat by a lack of credit cards. This is exemplified in July 2019 polling by Junior Achievement USA and Alliance Data, where just 30% of respondents ages 13 to 18 reported having a credit card.

Like adults, teens who engage in ecommerce often turn to Amazon. In Piper Jaffray polling during fall 2019, 52% of teens (average age 15.8) identified Amazon as their top shopping website. Nothing else scored in double digits.

Often, though, they use Amazon as an information resource rather than to transact purchases. In Business Insider polling from January 2019, a majority of 13- to 21-year-olds reported browsing, but not necessarily buying there often. Those without credit cards may identify purchases and then have parents do the transaction.

It’s not as though ecommerce has extinguished teens’ interest in physical stores. Junior Achievement USA got a glimpse of this last fall when it asked 13- to 17-year-olds about their holiday shopping plans. In that polling, fewer than half (46%) said they planned to do much of their holiday shopping online.

When they do shop in physical stores, teens often deploy that old stuff known as cash. In the July 2019 survey from Junior Achievement USA/Alliance Data, 40% of respondents ages 13 to 18 cited cash as their “preferred payment option for making purchases,” topping the numbers for debit cards (34%), credit cards (11%) and PayPal (6%).

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