Reporting for the BBC, Kate Lindsay says that ‘Gen Alpha are ready to spend – and they want to be treated like adults’. In fact, this demographic’s economic footprint is ‘expected to reach $5.46tn (£4.32tn) by 2029’ – almost matching the spending of Gen Z and millennials combined. Lindsay writes:

Gen Alpha, born between 2010 and 2024, is more brand-aware than ever, but they have few dedicated spaces or brands targeting their specific needs. Instead, Gen Alpha want to enter directly into the brands of adulthood, preferring to shop where their millennial parents shop: Lululemon, Sephora, Walmart, Target.

We recently shared an article about the Stanley water bottle craze, mentioning that tweens are one of the key groups participating in the trend. However, a recent trend has led to cosmetic brands becoming just as popular with Gen Alpha.

Teen and adult beauty shoppers have been uploading post after post on social media complaining that tween girls under 12 are flooding stores such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty. On TikTok and Instagram, the hashtags #sephora or #sephorakids reveal the conflict in full force, showing messed-up stores and product displays, and recounting run-ins in which young shoppers were rude to other customers and employees alike.

According to the complaints, this behaviour even includes grabbing products right from other shoppers’ hands, as one TikTok user shared. She specifically called out Drunk Elephant, a brand Glamour magazine recently called a “tween obsession”.

These same social media posts, many of which have gone viral, point out that Gen Alpha are busy buying products containing ingredients such as retinol, harsh exfoliating acids or pricey moisturisers, toners and serums designed to minimise the effects of aging. In other words, products that traditionally have been aimed at slightly older consumers.

Despite these criticisms, cosmetic brands have been leaning into the trend: with Drunk Elephant recommending some of its products for children specifically. Denish Shah, who is an associate professor of marketing at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, told the BBC that ‘tweens are not only flooding Sephora stores, but they’re also making a lot of purchases of these products online’, leading to a huge increase in sales. Shah uses e.l.f. as an example, saying that the cosmetic company’s stock prices are ‘off the charts’: 

Throughout the past year, e.l.f.’s stock price has surged 203%, per Marketwatch. And those soaring stock prices are a direct result of e.l.f.’s enormous sales growth.

Shah notes that e.l.f. ‘s marketing efforts are targeted towards tweens, and it’s paying off. Despite offering products at affordable prices, the company has seen a huge increase in sales over the past year – and e.l.f. ‘is not alone.

Data from Statista shows that the baby and child skincare market is expected to experience an annual growth rate of about 7.71% until in 2028, it reaches $380m (£299m) in market volume worldwide. Meanwhile, the number of product users is expected to reach 160.7 million worldwide by the same year. This isn’t just about young kids trying their mums’ creams, but an industry expanding to reach a broader age spread of consumers.

These numbers are compelling, but Shah also shared some anecdotal evidence:

“My own daughter has been impacted by this,” he says. “She asked for these products as a gift and she has never done that before, ever.”

Some may think that it’s only teens and tweens that are being targeted by these brands, but Jessica DeFino (founder of The Unpublishable, a newsletter about the beauty industry) says that younger kids are part of this trend too:

DeFino names several cosmetics and skincare brands that have launched in recent years specifically to serve not only tweens, but also younger demographics. Parents of toddlers may have heard of Yawn, a company that launched to offer make-up and skincare for customers who are aged 3+. Bubble, which bills itself as “new school skincare” offers acne and skin-texture products launched in 2020, and is now sold at Ulta as well as drug stores; Gryt, which launched in 2023, says its products are for tweens and teens but can be used by those as young as eight years old.

“I have seen an explosion of tween products,” says DeFino. “I’m also increasingly seeing girls younger than teens using adult products … From a business perspective, the marketing is there; these younger age groups are actively being targeted.”

In addition to cosmetic-specific stores, retailers such as Walgreens and CVS have marketed beauty products to kids in recent years. This includes ‘cross-branding with favourite childhood books or TV shows’. And if kids aren’t encountering these products in-person, they will be seeing them on social media:

Brands are marketing to tweens in multiple ways, continues DeFino. In addition to specifically creating those products designed to appeal to younger users, DeFino says there’s a proliferation of social media marketing aimed at young consumers. That includes witnessing a growing number of tweens, often “skinfluencers”, demonstrating how to use such products for their followers.

Young people began spending even more time on social media since the beginning of the pandemic, and this has continued into 2024. This means that children and teens are more exposed to brands, paid ads, and influencer content, than ever before. Shah says that this, coupled with the fact that tweens are often concerned with their personal appearance, creates the perfect opportunity for brands to drive business with young people.

As mentioned above, it’s important for brands to encourage responsible consumption when it comes to cosmetic products – especially when marketing to young customers. When this is done correctly, cosmetics can provide a fun way to exercise self-care, whilst building brand loyalty that could last a lifetime.

With such a significant projected spend, there is no doubt that more and more companies will want to market to Gen Alpha. If you’re looking to target new audiences with an updated brand or new website, contact us today.

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