Is YouTube Turning Kids Into Budding Shoppers?

Kids and teens hold a lot of spending power that's extending into households

Having established itself as a place for authentic self-discovery, YouTube is a mainstay for today’s kids. While entertainment preoccupies much of their time on the platform, it’s also evolved to a place of search and product discovery, ultimately influencing some on their path to purchase.

“On YouTube, there’s a lot more content by kids for kids that is deeply appealing to them,” said Michael Preston, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. “Having search and discovery tools embedded in the platform makes it a different kind of experience.”

That difference in experience extends to kids’ trustworthiness toward the advertising they encounter on the platform. More than three-quarters of kids said they "trust YouTubers over commercials on recommendations on what to buy," according to a March 2019 study from Insight Strategy Group.

One caveat is that younger kids might not be able to differentiate vlogger authenticity from paid promotions. Still, influencers are an effective push to purchase among younger consumers.

In a July 2019 survey from Wunderman Thompson Commerce, roughly a quarter of US and UK children and teens said that influencers and bloggers on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat influenced their purchases. Their influence was more substantial than celebrities and athletes.

And that influence is extending to households. Understandably, most kids depend on their parents for financial support, but that doesn't mean they don't have any spending power. On the contrary, it's changing the way that families shop.

Roughly 95% of US parents said it was “important” to involve their children in purchases specifically for the child, and 85% said the same regarding purchases for the family or household, per an October 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF). The poll also found that among those who included their children in the pre-purchase process, 67% looked at products online, and 54% read or watched product reviews.

As families continue to redefine how they research, browse and buy products, understanding the loyalty and utility kids have for their preferred platform is integral to understanding them as budding consumers. Remaining indispensable for its reliable search and discovery features, YouTube will likely continue to influence the purchase decisions of kids—and by extension, their parents—for the foreseeable future.