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How Tech Companies Are Catering To Generation Z Teens


Today is Cyber Monday, and on this week's All Tech Considered we're going to talk about how retailers are going after a key group of consumers - kids.


MCEVERS: Generation Z, or Americans who were born after 1995, spend $44 billion a year. And Amazon has a new tool to make it easier for teenagers to spend money online. And to talk about this we are joined by Karl Haller of IBM. Thanks for being on the show.

KARL HALLER: Thank you.

MCEVERS: First, what exactly is Amazon doing?

HALLER: Amazon is enabling teens to do something that they've done for years, which is spend their parents' money. Twenty years ago, 30 years ago, that was with cash or with a borrowed credit card in the mall. And when you look at the importance of Generation Z, there are 80 million of them in the U.S. As you mentioned, they spend nearly $50 billion. And they influence spending probably at a level of 10 times or more what they spend themselves. This is a very important generation. So they've introduced something called for teens. Teens can sign up with guidelines set by their parents and make purchases directly off of their parents' Amazon account.

MCEVERS: So let's say I've got an Amazon Prime account and my 15-year-old, if I had one, wanted to use it. Like, how would that work?

HALLER: So the parent would be able to set up the teen with an account, and then the teen would be able to log in with a custom logon ID and browse and make purchases directly on the Amazon app and that the parent then could review and approve purchases based on a variety of preset levels.

MCEVERS: We should say here that Amazon is one of NPR's financial supporters. But I'm wondering if you could explain the company's strategy here. I mean, is it just as simple as, you know, trying to get more customers? I mean, there's already so many people who use Amazon.

HALLER: Well, if you think about it from Amazon's perspective, the online world still requires customers to have credit cards. Most teens do not yet have - or many teens at least do not yet have their own credit cards. So this is a way for Amazon, again, to tap into a market that was probably one of the few untouched markets that they could tap into.

MCEVERS: If you think about those stores in the mall where teenagers used to spend their money or their parents' money, are they still competing for the business of Generation Z or are they losing out to online services?

HALLER: Well, definitely I think the stores in the mall still compete for Gen Z just as they compete for all consumers. You know, there have been - there's been a lot written about, you know, the death of retail and the retail apocalypse.


HALLER: But it's important to remember that about 90 cents out of every dollar still is spent in a physical store, at least in the U.S.

MCEVERS: Oh, wow.

HALLER: And if you think about the categories that Amazon has as its strengths, teen clothing is not necessarily one of them. And there's plenty of room still for many different competitors to go after the Gen Z spending.

MCEVERS: Karl Haller is a partner with IBM's Global Consumer Industry team. Thank you so much.

HALLER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MINOTAUR SHOCK'S "MY BURR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.