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Cybercash: If you stick them, can they shop?

Despite all of these Q-building on-line applications, and despite the fact that teens spent US$105 billion in 1998, e-marketers may still have trouble enticing them to part with their cash over the Internet. According to a Jupiter Communications report, on-line shopping...
December 1, 1999

Despite all of these Q-building on-line applications, and despite the fact that teens spent US$105 billion in 1998, e-marketers may still have trouble enticing them to part with their cash over the Internet. According to a Jupiter Communications report, on-line shopping still only represents 0.15% of total teen spending. The same research indicates that although teens have more access to the Internet than adults, they are less likely to make on-line purchases. In `99, Jupiter estimates that 58% of adult surfers will make an on-line buy, as compared to only 35% of teens. Simply put, teens don’t have access to credit cards, and until e-marketers get around that hurdle, the sales percentages aren’t likely to go up.

In a July 1999 survey of 670 girls between the ages of 13 and 18, PlanetGirl.com discovered that 60% of respondents would buy on-line if they had a credit card to call their own. Acting on these findings, the Web site teamed up with San Francisco-based teen financial services company DoughNET last month on a parent-funded initiative called PlanetGirl $ that might help girls get around the no-plastic problem. ‘It works like a debit card,’ explains president Nancie Martin. ‘There’s no credit involved-once you’re out of money, you’re out, so it also teaches kids about financial responsibility.’ PlanetGirl $ can be used to buy products from 50 of the 75 retailers associated with PlanetGirl.com, and parents can also set limits on the dollar amounts spent by their daughters.

Mountain View, California-based RocketCash (RocketCash.com) has also helped teens surmount the credit card barrier with its on-line system. Teens can set up a RocketCash account themselves with a check, money order or a parent’s credit card, or a parent can arrange to have an auto allowance debited from their credit card on a weekly or monthly basis. ‘RocketCash takes over at the checkout,’ explains Carol Kruse, the company’s VP of marketing. ‘A parent’s credit card never has to be keyed in.’ RocketCash currently has agreements with 68 merchants, of which 45 are up-and-running, including Artists Direct (the official merchant of the Backstreet Boys), Gap, Urban Wear and Trouble Wear. There is no initial sign-up fee for merchants, but they do pay between 5% and 15% to RocketCash for each transaction.

‘Merchants are happy,’ Kruse says, ‘because before, they had a lot of browsers kicking the tires but not actually buying the car.’ RocketCash boasts over 10,000 teens currently using the service since its June launch, and the company has a teen advisory group of about 70 kids across the U.S. whose feedback is used to update the site. RocketCash’s marketing and advertising campaigns are geared solely to teens, with radio spots running on hip hop stations, TV ads airing in Q1 2000, and on-line marketing at WWF and MTV sites and other ‘top teen content sites,’ Kruse says.

San Francisco’s Cybermoola (http://www.cybermoola.com) is banking on teen familiarity with purchasable phone cards to support its e-wallet product. Soft-launched in September, the Cybermoola card comes with a scratch-off back that reveals a serial number. At the Cybermoola site, teens key in the number and get the card validated. Cybermoola prompts the user for his name and e-mail address, so a record of future transactions can be sent to him. The company currently has four merchants on-board-music retailers EZCD and Saul GoodMan M.D., and apparel sites Deelish and Outletmall. ‘We haven’t spent a dollar on advertising,’ says president and CEO Eric Freeman. Instead, the company will have distributed 350,000 cards to U.S. high school students by the end of the year through a venture with Motivational Media Assembly. After giving multimedia, big-screen demos encouraging students not to drink and drive (among other teen evils), MMA handed out the Cybermoola cards. They are also available at high schools through a touring dance party called The Atomic Lounge, and were given away at the Dennis Rodman flick Simon Says. So far, about US$2 million in card value has been freebied to teens. Revenue is generated through a guaranteed new users program, whereby merchants pay a fee to Cybermoola once a purchase has been made. There are also ads and sponsorships available in the lounge section of the site, and cards can be co-branded with a merchant’s logo. Unlike other e-wallet systems, Cybermoola is controlled completely by the teen using the card-he simply buys it as he would buy a phone card.

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