January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Young Shop Smarter Online

Internet surfers age 16 to 22 are quickly becoming the savviest online buyers, according to a new report from Forrester Research. The report says this group uses various online tools to seek out deals and convenience and will demand synchronized selling online and off.

"Online shopping comes naturally to young consumers," says Forrester analyst Ekaterina O. Walsh.

More than one-third of 16- to 22-year-olds will buy online this year, spending $4.5 billion--more than 10% of their disposable income, Walsh adds. By 2004, a majority of the group will shop online, compared with 46% of adults.

The shopping carts of young Internet consumers show that convenience items --low-cost, low-risk purchases--lead the way, including music, books, and apparel. High-cost, high-risk good are less popular, although one in four young shoppers has bought computer hardware online.

Like the Internet shopping patterns of adults, fewer shoppers age 16 to 22 buy health products, cosmetics, and grocery items online. Of those who have been buying online for the past year or less, 21% of young consumers have bought PC hardware versus 5% of adults; 16% have bought consumer electronics versus 10% of adults; and 6% have bought groceries versus 2% of adults.

Price comparison sites, demand-driven pricing and coupons also are popular with young online shoppers. Although two-thirds of adult Internet shoppers are unaware of price-comparison sites, roughly 60% of young Net buyers have already used one. Like adults, young consumers frequent Amazon, Barnesandnoble and CDNow, but they also shop at Gen Y-targeted stores like Delias.com and Alloy.com as well.

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