As a young consumer’s purchasing power, market size, and family influence increase, it becomes vital for marketers to understand this unique market. Understanding the young consumer market includes examining consumption symbolism, since this phenomenon peaks in adolescence and influences young consumers choice behavior as well as potentially influencing prejudice and stereotyping. Consumption symbolism evident in young people may also carry over into adulthood, leading to increased stereotyping and prejudicial behavior by adults. Because of the influence that consumption symbolism has on the choice and the possibility of the negative consequences, it is important to understand how this phenomenon develops in young people. In the face of capricious consumer demand and increasing competition, today’s companies must develop new strategies beyond traditional marketing techniques that focus on retaining current customers and building relationships with them. The cost to attract a new customer is as much as five times the cost to keep a current one and the loss of a customer means losing more than a single sale.
Over recent decades, the young consumers have become an important market segment to marketers. Young consumers have been playing an increasingly important part in family decision making, and their buying power has been increasing more rapidly than that of any other age segment of the population. Many young consumers actively participate in shopping for their own and their families’ needs.
Keeping step with these trends, merchants are scurrying to attract the influential young consumers by designing merchandise and creating flashy advertising to suit their lifestyle. Today’s consumers are growing up in an era of choice with respect to merchandise and preferred media for obtaining product information and store formats for purchasing. With increasing buying power and the variety of choice in products as well as media for shopping, young consumers have become an important segment in the electronic market place. Young consumers, particularly those aged 16 to 22, are becoming the Internet’s “hottest” market. They spend an average of 15 hours a week online and spend about 25 percent of their disposable income for online purchases, which are greater than for adults. Almost 60 percent of young consumers in this age group have experience with purchasing items online. Statistics by Forrest Research Inc. reveal that the amount of money spent online for clothing tops the list with an average spending of $400 per year, followed by books at $260 and music CDs at $210 a year online. Successful marketing is based on correctly representing customer lifestyles and making products relevant to their lives. A range of advertising styles, techniques, and channels are used to reach youth, to foster brand loyalty, and to encourage product use. Some approaches are market segmentation, television advertising, stores, and sporting events, multimedia exposure, celebrity endorsement, and product placement. Also, retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, the media, and corporate donors are creating mutually beneficial partnerships to gain access to and capture the attention of young consumers. One of their goals is to develop a market for tomorrow’s adult consumers.
Using television commercials to reach youth is rapidly becoming more expensive and less efficient. Young customers are exposed partially to different types of mass media, including radio, magazines, newspaper sections written especially for them, but and mainly to interactive computer technology. The general trend is towards the use of the Internet as an important shopping method and cellular, as the most important communication tool.
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Erez Manhaimer, Ph.D.