Amazon.com, already the most popular online retailer among adults, is setting its sights on a new demographic: teenagers.
The companyâ€™s newest efforts are aimed at getting shoppers ages 13 to 17 to purchase items on its site â€” with approval from their parents. Teens can now log into Amazon.com using their own accounts to buy items and stream videos. Their parents, meanwhile, can approve their purchases by text message or set spending limits per order. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.)
â€œAs a parent of a teen, I know how they crave independence, but at the same time that has to be balanced with the convenience and trust that parents need,â€ Michael Carr, vice president of Amazon Households, said in a statement. â€œWeâ€™ve listened to families and have built a great experience for both teens and parents.â€
Analysts say the teenage market could be particularly lucrative for Amazon, as mall staples such as Aeropostale, Wet Seal and rue21 file for bankruptcy protection and shutter hundreds of stores.Â ManyÂ other retailers, such as Claireâ€™s and Abercrombie & Fitch, are also struggling.
â€œTeenagers are at least as comfortable buying things online as their parents are, so it makes sense to go after them directly,â€Â said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at technology research and advisory firm Jackdaw.Â â€œThis is a move that will get families deeper into Amazon, while also cultivating future Prime members.â€
The company also said this week that it will begin offering Prime memberships to college students for $5.49 per month. (An annual Amazon Prime Student membership costs $49, comparedÂ with $99 for regular members.)Â Amazon, which had annual revenue of $136 billion last year, accounts for roughly one-thirdÂ of all online U.S. sales.
The announcements come as Amazon gains popularity among younger shoppers.Â Nearly half â€” 49 percent â€” of teenagers listed Amazon as their favorite website, a 9 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a survey by financial firm Piper Jaffray. Among other teen favorites: Nike, with 6 percent of the vote, and American Eagle,Â with 5 percent.
UnderÂ Amazonâ€™sÂ new program,Â teenagers can log into the site using their own credentials. They can shop online, stream videos and tap into the perks of their parentsâ€™ Prime memberships. Amazon notifies parents â€” either by text message or email â€” of any purchases. Parents can reviewÂ each item, its cost and the payment method being used before finalizing the transaction.
â€œBy default, parents approve every order,â€ Amazon said. â€œParents receive itemized notifications for every order and can cancel and return any item in accordance with Amazonâ€™s policies.â€
Parenting and child development experts, though, raised concerns that the move allows Amazon to gather more data on its customers, including childrenâ€™s browsing histories and purchasing habits. Some also worried about giving children easier access to their parentsâ€™ credit cards.
â€œWeâ€™re essentially telling our children they can get whatever they want, whenever they want it,â€Â said Betsy Brown Braun, a child development and behavior specialist. â€œThis could create a whole new set of problems.â€