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 purchase items on its site — with approval from their parents. Teens can now log into Amazon.com and the company’s app using their own accounts to make purchases and stream videos. Their parents, meanwhile, can approve their purchases by text message or set spending limits per order. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also 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. “We’ve listened to families and have built a great experience for both teens and parents.”
Analysts say the teenage 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. Many other retailers, such as Claire’s and Abercrombie & Fitch, are also struggling.
“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 per month. (An annual Amazon Prime Student membership costs $49, compared with $99 for regular members.) Amazon, which had annual revenue of $136 billion last year, accounts for roughly one-third of all online U.S. sales.
The announcements come as Amazon gains popularity among younger shoppers. Nearly half — 49 percent — of teenagers listed Amazon as their favorite website, a 9 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a survey by 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 using their own credentials. They can shop online, stream videos and tap into the perks of their parents’ Prime memberships. Amazon notifies parents — either by text message 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 children easier access to their parents’ credit cards.
“We’re essentially telling our children they can get whenever 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.”