Ama­zon pre­dicts teenagers will be­come its lat­est lu­cra­tive mar­ket

Young shop­pers can use their own ac­counts with their par­ents’ ap­proval

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS - BY ABHA BHATTARAI abha.bhattarai@wash­post.com

Ama­zon.com, al­ready the most pop­u­lar on­line re­tailer among adults, is set­ting its sights on a new de­mo­graphic: teenagers.

The com­pany’s new­est ef­forts are aimed at get­ting shop­pers ages 13 to 17 to buy items on its site — with ap­proval from their par­ents. Teens can now log into Ama­zon.com us­ing their own ac­counts. Their par­ents can ap­prove pur­chases by text mes­sage and set spend­ing lim­its per or­der. (Ama­zon chief ex­ec­u­tive Jef­frey P. Be­zos owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.)

“As 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,” Michael Carr, vice pres­i­dent of Ama­zon House­holds, said in a state­ment.

An­a­lysts say the teen 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.

“Teenagers are at least as com­fort­able buy­ing things on­line as their par­ents are, so it makes sense to go af­ter them di­rectly,” said Jan Daw­son, chief an­a­lyst at tech­nol­ogy re­search and ad­vi­sory firm Jack­daw. “This is a move that will get fam­i­lies deeper into Ama­zon while also cul­ti­vat­ing fu­ture Prime mem­bers.”

The com­pany also said this week that it will be­gin of­fer­ing Prime mem­ber­ships to col­lege stu­dents for $5.49 a month. (An an­nual Ama­zon Prime Stu­dent mem­ber­ship costs $49, com­pared with $99 for reg­u­lar mem­bers.)

The an­nounce­ments come as Ama­zon gains pop­u­lar­ity among younger shop­pers. Nearly half — 49 per­cent — of teenagers listed Ama­zon as their fa­vorite web­site, a nine per­cent­age-point in­crease from a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the fi­nan­cial firm Piper Jaffray. Among other teen fa­vorites: Nike, with 6 per­cent of the vote, and Amer­i­can Ea­gle, with 5 per­cent.

Un­der Ama­zon’s new pro­gram, teenagers can log into the site to shop on­line, stream videos and tap into the perks of their par­ents’ Prime mem­ber­ships. Ama­zon no­ti­fies par­ents — by text or email — of any pur­chases. Par­ents can re­view each item, its cost and the pay­ment method be­ing used be­fore fi­nal­iz­ing the trans­ac­tion.

“By de­fault, par­ents ap­prove ev­ery or­der,” Ama­zon said. “Par­ents re­ceive item­ized no­ti­fi­ca­tions for ev­ery or­der and can can­cel and re­turn any item in ac­cor­dance with Ama­zon’s poli­cies.”

Par­ent­ing and child-de­vel­op­ment ex­perts, though, raised con­cerns that the move al­lows Ama­zon to gather more data on its cus­tomers, in­clud­ing chil­dren’s brows­ing his­to­ries and pur­chas­ing habits. Some also wor­ried about giv­ing teens eas­ier ac­cess to their par­ents’ credit cards.

“We’re es­sen­tially telling our chil­dren they can get what­ever they want, when­ever they want it,” said Betsy Brown Braun, a child-de­vel­op­ment and be­hav­ior spe­cial­ist. “This could cre­ate a whole new set of problems.”

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