This Is How Teens' Digital Behaviour Is Changing

Teens don’t account for a huge chunk of the US population, but they still get lots of attention. Marketers and brands know that teen behaviour often says a lot about where shopping trends, media consumption, and device ownership are going.

BI Intelligence looked at a survey of teens from Piper Jaffray and picked out the most important behavioural changes taking place among this demographic. Charts from this analysis are available for download to BI Intelligence subscribers. We believe these shifts will have the largest impact on industries including retail, entertainment, social media, and advertising.

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Teen spending is on the rise, after a pullback between 2006 and 2011, as parents allocate more money to their kids’ allowances. Where teens go to spend that money differs by gender.

  • Compared to last year, a greater percentage of teens boys say they prefer to shop online than in stores.
  • Meanwhile, teen girls seem to be reverting back to stores to do their shopping.

This behaviour likely shows boys’ preference for the convenience and privacy of e-commerce, while girls are more likely to shop socially in stores. In nearly every Piper Jaffray survey since spring 2012, more male teens have said they shop online than female teens.

Teen girls are leaving Amazon and eBay in favour of content-heavy commerce sites like Net-A-Porter and Pinterest. Teen boys, however, are still shopping on Amazon in droves. eBay is losing both boy and girl shoppers.

Other retail brands also gained more teen girl shoppers, including Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, and Brandy Melville, while Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom faltered among this demographic.

With the exception of Nike, many top male-oriented retail brands are failing to attract teenage boys online. Rather, boys seem to prefer the convenience of one-stop shopping on sites like Amazon.


Teens are going online to download or stream movies like never before. This has come at the expense of movie rental stores and DVD-by-mail services.

There is still a lot of room for the movie-streaming trend to grow. Nearly seven in every ten teens say they plan to rent movies from Netflix over the next five years.

Gaming is still a popular source of entertainment for teens, and they are playing about as many physical pre-owned games as they did a year ago. Among those who do buy pre-owned games, more than 40% of teens say they get them from GameStop. Still, the retailer is expecting Netflix-level disruption in the video game industry. GameStop recently announced the closure of 120 of its brick-and-mortar stores, in favour of establishing a larger online business where customers can buy pre-owned games and consoles, as well as download digital games.


Instagram has increased its lead over Facebook as the most popular social network among teens. Three in every four teens say they use the photo- and video-sharing app, compared to less than half who say they use Facebook. This suggests that teens are leaving Facebook, Twitter, and other traditional social networks for more visual-oriented sharing apps.

Although Snapchat was not an option for teens to select as a social network that they use, 4% of respondents still wrote it in on the survey that they use it. This means the actual number of teens using Snapchat is much higher.


Teen iPhone ownership and interest continues to soar.

  • About 66% of teens currently own an iPhone.
  • 73% say they want an iPhone for their next smartphone.

Teen were also asked about Apple’s recently announced iWatch device. A considerable 16% of teen respondents said they would be interested in the iWatch if it was priced at $US350.

GoPro is quickly becoming a popular gift item for teens. One per cent of teens say the camera device will be on their holiday wish list this year, compared to two years ago when it was virtually unmentioned.

However, most teens likely view GoPro cameras as a device that can be shared amongst their family. Seventeen per cent of teens say their family already owns a GoPro device, compared to less than 10% last year.

For full access to all BI Intelligence’s reports, briefs, and charts on the digital media, e-commerce, and mobile industries, sign up for a free trial.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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