Catering to Your Niche: Teenagers

Teenagers make up a huge percentage of your customers, so how can you cater to them better?

The teen demographic has been steadily growing for years now for almost every business. They are spending more money (or having their parents/guardians spend money) and influencing trends left and right. Back in 2003 data showed that people between 12 and 19 years of age spent $175 billion. Other data from 2014 shows that a parent will spend, on average, $17 thousand per teenager per year. The average teen spends 41% of their disposable income on food and clothes.

Everyone is recognizing the power that teens have in our economy today. Facebook learned the lesson the hard way when it was outbid for the app Snapchat. Facebook is working hard these days to reclaim its teen demographic, as teenagers are abandoning the OG social media site by the millions. Following their Snapchat failure, they bid more than 6 times more money to acquire Whatsapp.

This social media battle is important to keep in mind because it speaks to the modern teenager’s mindset and power. No longer are teens the ones to mold and influence through magazines and television shows telling them what’s cool; with the infiltration of the internet into every corner of our lives, teenagers are at the forefront of trends. They are the ones telling everyone else what’s cool; and, most of the time, they’re over “what’s cool,” before you even find out about it.

Teenagers are the reason so many families made the switch to Apple products, smartphones, digital music devices. They’re on the cusp and they’re influencing what’s bought and what’s popular, even if they have no actual income of their own.

To guarantee your success with the teen market, your first step is going to be to know how teenagers think. That doesn’t mean pulling a Freaky Friday stunt or and it doesn’t have to mean scouring millions of individual blogs and Twitter feeds (though familiarizing yourself with the world of the teenage internet user is a good strategy). A less time-consuming and more accurate way to understand how teenagers think is to bring them directly into your business. Find interns, do your own focus groups, hire an 18-year-old to run your social media. Most coffee shops are in on this trend, already, hiring young millennials (and whatever the generation after them is being called) to populate their shops. Youth sells visually, yes; but, these are one of your biggest demographic consumers and having them involved in the business strategy and day-to-day functioning will help keep you on the curb, and potentially ahead of it.

Today’s teenagers grew up with the internet–they don’t know the world without it. They are native to its frontiers and can give you intuitive, reflexive insight into the who, what, how, why, and where of the internet and the trends of their fellow teens.

This is sounding like a “how to use the internet” blog, but that’s just because the internet is a tremendous part in the teenage demographic everyday life, and it can make or break a business. Kim Kardashian West built an empire through social media; but, she has been silent on social media for over a month since she was robbed and assaulted in Paris. Economists show that she has lost tremendous footing in her business, falling over 800 spots in the app store, losing income and followers, which could lead to the loss of sponsors as well. One month of being out of touch could be enough to start to topple one of the most influential empires online today.

Speaking of the Kardashians, you should also be mindful when choosing people to be the face of your brand. If you are a small or independent coffee roaster, you may not be looking at a celebrity endorsement. If you are, consider that teenagers are more about internet celebrities than any other celebrity. Youtubers, Viners, Instagram and Tumblr famous people–these are the ones with the massive followings that could bring strong business to your brand.

If you’re not going the endorsement route, look at these platforms to promote your business. You need a social media presence in general for a new business these days; but, especially when catering to these youngsters. This is why hiring teenagers and 20-somethings can be vital; they are fluent in internet and social media, they can utilize it in their sleep. They know the intricacies of what seems legit, what seems lame and pandering, and what gets likes–which equates to what gets attention and profits. As a small business, you can utilize the power of internet celebrities by replicating what they do through your own social media. Consult your teenage consultants here, as well; internet users can see through inauthentic content in a snap. Don’t make a Youtube video that vaguely resembles what you think these new media people are doing; look at their content, look at what works, and make it work for your brand. If you make something that looks like you’re mocking what these teenagers consume every day, you’re going to repulse them more than attract them. Have respect for them and their tastes or your efforts to garner their business will be futile.

Know the social media trends–like the fact that teenagers aren’t much about Facebook anymore. Snapchat and other apps have surpassed the original social media platform that’s now home to everyone’s awkward mother and embarrassing uncle. Don’t waste your time trying to appeal to an audience that doesn’t exist where you are.

Some trends seem to suggest that teenagers are moving more toward personalized social media; Snapchat offers the chance to share a message with everyone you know, or a select few, for example. Tumblr has become more about curating the perfect blog and many teenagers find that there’s too much pressure in that. One thing you could consider is creating a celebrity for your brand; or just creating a personalized voice for it. Whether that mean you snap throughout the day about the brand, the business, the employees, the product, your breakfast, your afternoon walk, your outfit of the day–or someone representing it does, creating a personal-feeling relationship with your social media community is a better strategy for finding and keeping those teenage consumers.

This generation is also looking for good quality at low prices. They want to find one-of-a-kind things that feel like they’ll last, like they’re made from hearty materials, but that don’t cost more than their college tuition. The days of $100 ripped jeans are coming to an end. The thrift store is the place to shop for many teens. This can go into your shop’s aesthetic, going for the rustic, retro, hand-crafted, eclectic look appeals to the younger generation.

And today’s teenagers love interactive brands. This extends beyond their online lives, as well. Though most of today’s up-and-coming brands involve teenagers (well, their followers who happen to be a lot of teenagers) to determine what should be sold next. There are also apps that are social media for shopping, giving the consumer promotional power based on what they like.

In-store, teenagers like things they can touch, interact with–even if they have nothing directly to do with your brand. As a coffee shop, one of your goals is to create a space where people want to gather and hang out. If you’re catering to teenagers, bringing in video/arcade games could be a strategy (though consider that other people will want to come to get work done), board games, books and magazines, something that allows them to have a hands on experience. While they may get thirstier and buy more beverages, if they have a positive experience and come back with friends, you’re on your way to becoming a trendy spot.

My final tip for your online presence and social media activity is to be on top of it. Nothing is more frustrating or a bigger indicator of a brand I don’t trust or care about than a website or social media page that hasn’t been updated. It tells me that you don’t care about your business or what’s going on. My first thought is usually that a business has closed if they haven’t updated their social media. This is why hiring social media people is important because daily updates are really the best way to keep your brand alive. Think of Kim Kardashian West–one month could be drowning her social media dynasty; as a new business, a couple days could drown it before it even jumps in the water.



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  1. Such an interesting article! 😀
    Having board games in a coffee shops would certainly attract a lot of young customers, especially -teenagers. In addition, organizing a karaoke night, or hiring a stand-up comic will also attract a lot of young adults. Also, hiring someone who is “insta-famous” or “famous youtuber” to spread the word around, about your amazing coffee shop would certainly make a great difference. 😀

  2. As an oldie that lived with a teenager for while, I can attest to how accurate this can be. The teen of the house usually dictates the “style” of the household, since they are the adult’s “guide to what’s in with the world”. Teens will try just about anything! So they are also quite the wallet buster. Catering to teens is like catering to 90% of the population due to their influence alone.

  3. Amazing article! Full of useful information especially for coffee shop owners. I agree that hiring someone to manage your website is very important for a business. I always look for new updates and visit their website because I’m interested in their product. Also having a social media manager is very useful because someone can quickly answer questions. That’s a big plus for me.

  4. Social media influences the decisions of the new generation. People spend more time looking at updates, posts or tweets by their friends and families. If you are the owner of a certain business, it is essential to have access to your customers thru social media.

  5. I think teens are one of the most spending age groups, and also the ones that bring new trends, which makes them the perfect target group for a business’s marketing. Besides, since they are young, there are many things you can do to entertain them: bring board games, repost photos on social media, discount products…
    Its a great opportunity to make a coffee shop the new “hot thing” and the place where everyone gathers. I know I still remember the coffee shop I visited near my high school, and I always go back to it when I’m in the area. Good memories make people come back to the place where they were created.

  6. Social media is a great way to reach teenagers. However, I would caution against trying too hard to be “hip” or “cool.” Kids and teens can spot a phony a mile away. You still have to be yourself, even as you reach out to other audiences.

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