January 26, 2006, 12:00 AM

Teens view search on a par with magazines when researching fashion buys

50% of fashion-forward teens in a Yahoo survey search online for clothing and accessories, but most buy offline. That means fashion sites targeting teens should be built for information vs. streamlining the purchase process, Yahoo says.

Among teen buyers of fashion, search has an equal footing with magazines as a medium they use to discover new brands-though most purchases are made offline due to lack of credit card ownership, according to a survey sponsored by Yahoo. “Now more than ever, retailers looking to reach and influence teens outside of their stores need to effectively incorporate search into their overall marketing strategies,” says Diane Rinaldo, director of the retail category for Yahoo Search Marketing.

That was among the findings of a survey of 15- to 19-year-olds conducted on Yahoo’s sponsorship by the North American Testing Organization. Teens surveyed met the criteria of shopping for apparel at least once in the past three months, going online to see information about clothes or accessories-such as visiting fashion sites, for example, but not necessarily using search-and considering themselves fashion trendsetters.

Overall, 50% reported using search to find clothing, accessories, shoes and jewelry, saying they turn to search more than television ads and fashion web sites when researching such products. The study found keyword searches are an important part of the research and purchase decision-making process for these teens, surpassing magazines and TV ads.

68% reported using the web to access information on fashion trends and as a way to learn about unfamiliar labels. Half of those surveyed said they planned to use search the next time they need to look for information on clothes or accessories. And 61% of the teens said they used Yahoo search to access fashion information online.

In view of the findings, search marketing campaigns and web sites targeting teens with fashion news and merchandise should be built for information as opposed to streamlining the actual purchase process, Rinaldo recommends. “Online campaigns are not just about purchasing anymore,” she says. “Brand awareness, communication and information should also be considered important goals.”

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