Courting ScreenAgers

Courting ScreenAgers


Understanding and reaching the “next generation” has always been a challenge, no matter the decade. But today’s youth market is so technologically savvy it’s scary. “Retailers need to catch up with teens who know it all,” states Fred Towns, Senior Vice President, New Age. “Technology is in the hands of eight-year-olds, so (retailers) can’t think about marketing to you and me, because our kids aren’t going to be interested.” What are they interested in? “Lifestyles, looks, and color; that’s what they want to express.”

“Of course,” adds Liz Cutting, Senior Imaging Analyst, NPD Group, Inc., “we all know photo specialty consumers tend to be older, affluent males. So how do retailers satisfy that core market and still pull in a younger group that is likely to want something different from that core customer?” To begin with, it helps to follow the shopper.

According to NPD Group’s research, in terms of channels, “ScreenAgers” buy their cameras at mass merchants. Thirteen to twenty-four-year-olds represent 15% of all camera units sold, and one in twelve people buying a digital camera is in this age group. “We track the buyers but not those that receive (cameras) as gifts; and technology hardware is one of the biggest gifting items available. That makes it harder to bring them back into the store if they haven’t purchased it there,” Cutting notes.

Forty percent of 13-17 year-olds shop mass merchant; the average overall is 31%. “Which means it’s up to them to figure out their output options because they’re not likely to get much advice at the store.” Mass merchants do have kiosks—which consumers find both convenient and fun to use. “But if you’re buying for the first time and not predisposed to printing, you’re not going to get any help here,” reiterates Cutting.

With Age Comes Wisdom?

As ScreenAgers age they tend to switch buying channels. Only 29% of 18 to 24-year-olds shop at mass merchants while 39% of 18 to 44-year-olds shop at electronic specialty stores. “The really young lean toward mass merchants and as they age, they move onto electronic specialty stores such as Best Buys and Circuit City.” However, notes Cutting, they’re still not printing in these venues, although they can buy home printing equipment there. Many consumers continue to print where they’ve always printed, which is at mass market and drug stores. Of all digital camera owners, 19% are not printing at all and 19% under the age of 30 are not printing. So there’s no greater likelihood with younger people not to print than other age groups. Where do they print? Twenty percent of all people who are printing do so at mass merchants. For those under 30, 25% are printing at mass.

What is surprising is SreenAgers are no more likely to buy/print at e-commerce than anyone else. According to NPD, total e-commerce sales are 16% of units over the last year (12 months ending May). “There is no great propensity among any age group to be more likely to buy online than anyone else. (ScreenAgers) have embraced the Internet for community activities and sharing, not printing. It’s not an Internet-based buying community; it’s an Internet-based using community,” explains Cutting. Those who are engaged in social or community website image sharing represent 10% of the overall population, and 41% of 18-29 year-olds. “It’s what we would imagine,” admits Cutting.

Technology Rules

The main thing to remember is, for this generation, technology rules. “You can’t forget how smart the young demographic is in knowing the connectivity of these products,” states Towns. “We’re finding more and more printing products we’re selling are really pushing Bluetooth capability. A lot of the new phones, whether using transflash or an FD card, are all enabling printing devices to take an image out of the camera and directly into the printer without having to interface with the computer.

“Also, the iPhone-type product,” explains Towns, “does not have removable media. It has fixed flash memory built into the phone; the only way to print with it is using a Bluetooth-enabled device. Hence, more and more of the home printing environment is being done on a wireless solution. In printing, the future will be with simple connectivity—whether it’s net wireless solutions, one quick hotwire or a network built into a home environment—where the phone, the PDA and/or the notebook can all print to one home solution. The key is to make that as seamless as possible.”

This is all good news for electronics stores but the photo retailer will need to have some propriety display in the store to attract customers. “It’s better to have devices hooked up to show consumers how to get pictures off their phones, etc., and printed. The retailer needs to make the customer aware of the solutions,” Towns added.

Follow the Leader

At the moment, viral marketing seems to work best when it comes to attracting ScreenAgers’ attention. “If their cool friends are buying it/doing it/using it, they’re going to want to buy it/do it/use it too,” notes Cutting. “We know they want what their friends want; but how do you get them into the store?” For the specialty dealer, whose true strength is in knowing the local market, organizing events and/or demos with local clubs and schools can be key to attracting this demographic. “Where people are physically gathering appears to be where the opportunities are,” states Cutting. “And making your store a destination is more likely to open their eyes to your hardware as well as your output.”

Speaking of hardware, ScreenAgers are also looking for style and color. “We’ve seen a good influx of thin-styled, wide viewfinder, point-and-shoot cameras that are still creating a lot of excitement. HP, Panasonic, Kodak, etc., have all added a wide breadth of color assortments to their product lines to offer to this young demographic,” states Towns. “Females in the 14-26-year-old range are into color, style and fashion of the product, and it’s easier for them to carry another device because of the huge, fancy purses they’re carrying, which are also status symbols.”

Anna Enerio at SanDisk agrees that specialty dealers need to offer product that the youth market wants, and retailers need to make their presence known at school functions, etc. “Often, when kids go to retailers to print photos it’s for gifts and memorabilia.” So retailers need to make sure they have various products on hand that would appeal to that market—because why else would they go to that retailer? Enerio also thinks ScreenAgers may be a tougher market to infiltrate because they may not have the disposable income that the soccer mom has.

“At the end of the day, it’s about marketing the technology,” notes New Age’s Towns. “HP, Canon, and other manufacturers offer a wide breadth of everything from sticker solutions to iron-on capabilities where a great photo, once printed, can be put on a T-shirt. A smart retail store could stock some very cool diaries that include stickers with photos—something girls can share with their friends, etc. For boys,” states Towns, “tie (a product) in with a sporting even—skating, surfing, soccer.”

Schools often mandate students cover their textbooks with book covers. “A good printing solution,” says Towns, “is to get a wide format printer (13×19 printer) and create very cool custom book covers. Also, personalizing products will attract kids, who are all about making it their own. That’s the kind of thinking that’s going to entice this demographic, and the retailer that embraces some of these ideas first, trust me, will be copied by the national chains. And it’s not about dollars and cents,” concludes Towns. “The iPod they’re carrying is a $200 minimum product; the iPhone is $600. Mom or dad or someone is paying for that product. The spending power for today’s kids is huge.” yy