tt_youth_readingA new e-commerce research report, “Taking Stock with Teens – Spring 2016,” from Piper Jaffray,  presents some alarming news for Amazon’s competitors in online book sales, whether Barnes & Noble or otherwise. As highlighted by Business Intelligence (and touched upon here by Chris Meadows), 41 percent of teens in the survey do their online shopping on Amazon. The next place branded websites even to register on Piper Jaffray’s metrics, Nike and Forever 21, barely manage to attract 5 percent of the teen audience apiece.

And Amazon’s share of the teen audience is growing, fast. BI quotes past figures to indicate that Amazon has seen a 10 percent rise in its teen mindshare in just two years, up from 31 percent in spring 2014 and 35 percent in spring 2015. Amazon’s customer lock-in with Amazon Prime also seems to be growing. According to Piper Jaffray, “Amazon Prime adoption has increased across all income brackets in each of the past five surveys with this survey indicating Amazon Prime exists in 51% of households of the teens in our survey. This survey, along with other previous Piper Jaffray consumer surveys, suggests that there are 57-61 million Prime households in the U.S.”

Now, if I was a Barnes & Noble shareholder, I would be very worried by those statistics. Where else are the upcoming generation of e-shoppers going to go to buy their books but Amazon? The survey is “a semi-annual research project comprised of gathering input from approximately 6,500 teens with an average age of 16.5 years,” so it is pretty representative of the upcoming generation’s e-commerce habits.

And it’s not like Amazon’s competitors can put much faith in the lure of the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience. A recent Business Intelligence Insider report, “The E-Commerce Demographics Report,” emphasizes that, “among teens, the proportion of males who report shopping online (86 percent) is ten percentage points higher than that for teen girls (76 percent). Also, a higher percentage of teen boys say they shop at general interest e-commerce sites like Amazon (34 percent) and eBay (8 percent) than is the case among teen girls, who prefer more specialized and fashion-conscious sites.”

Whether all this builds a case for an anti-monopoly investigation of Amazon is a question for another day. But it does suggest that, for publishers in particular, the choice is Amazon or nowhere. There is pretty much zero chance that the new generation will opt by preference for specialized direct-to-reader sites from HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, etc. – whether the Big Five want to accept that or not.


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