"All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you're Woolworth's."
-- Jeff Bezos

For most businesses, there's no more valuable customer than one just beginning their life as a consumer. These shoppers are just developing brand affinity and have a lifetime of purchase decisions ahead of them.

That's why advertisers focus so intently on what the 18-34 age demographic thinks, and it's also why investors should pay attention to how the companies they own are performing with their youngest customers. Piper Sandler's semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey offers one of the best windows into how members of Generation Z are spending their money.

The investment firm found that overall self-reported teen spending was down 9% to $2,150, impacted by the pandemic, but there's no question that teens remain valuable consumers, especially as they'll only spend more money as they get older. But what companies stand to benefit from the trends indicated in the survey? Keep reading to see three of the big winners when it comes to what teens care about.

Teen girls sitting by a water fountain with shopping bags beside them.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Netflix

Over the last year, streaming platform Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has faced an onslaught of new competition, including Disney+Apple TV+, AT&T's HBO Max, and Comcast's Peacock, but the original streamer still reigns supreme both with general audiences and among teens. According to Piper Sandler, Netflix grabbed the No. 1 spot in daily video consumption, taking 34% of teens' video time, edging out second-place YouTube (owned by Alphabet) with 32% and well ahead of cable TV at 9% in third place.

That Netflix managed to beat YouTube, a free service that skews toward younger and teen audiences, shows the strength of its library of content and global-subscriber base of nearly 200 million. According to Reelgood, a streaming aggregator with 2 million users, Netflix remained the top streaming service among its viewers with 25% of streaming activity in the third quarter, compared to 21% for Amazon Prime and 15% for Disney-owned Hulu. 

Going into its upcoming third-quarter earnings report, Netflix expects subscriber growth to slow sharply to just 2.5 million, but the Piper Sandler survey shows its well-positioned for long-term growth given its popularity with the newest generation of consumers.

2. Nike

Sports apparel and shoe manufacturer Nike's (NYSE:NKE) stock raced to an all-time high after delivering a much better-than-expected earnings report in September. Despite the headwinds, the home of the Swoosh reported flat revenue growth and a 10% increase in earnings per share, driven by strong performance in its digital channel.

The results from Piper Sandler's survey show the sportswear giant is executing with teens as well. The research found strong performance overall with athletic brands in fashion, reflecting a broader trend in the industry, and Nike claimed the top spot in both apparel and footwear. Twenty-seven percent of teens listed Nike as their top clothing brand, well ahead of second-place American Eagle at 8% and rival adidas in third place at 5%. In footwear, it claimed 52% of votes, ahead of second-place Vans at 17% and third-place adidas at 11%.

Nike was also the third-most-popular shopping website in the survey at 5%, showing that its digital initiatives also appear to be paying off with teens. While the company faces a range of competition, including from lululemon athletica and start-up brands, its recent earnings report and the teen survey show that its brand is as strong as ever. 

3. Amazon

Arguably, there's no consumer-facing brand as dominant as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) these days. The tech giant controls nearly half of online sales in the U.S. and saw its revenue grow a whopping 40% year over year in its most recent quarter, an incredible growth for a company its size.

Amazon is also the clear leader among teens, as the Piper Sandler survey found that 54% of teens listed Amazon as their favorite shopping website, a sign that Generation Z is following their parents in online shopping. Second-place SHEIN was not even close at 5%, showing Amazon's brand and shopping experience are resonating with the youngest group of consumers. Additionally, Amazon claimed 5% of votes as the top beauty destination, putting it in fifth place in that category.

As the above quote shows, Jeff Bezos has long been focused on ensuring that Amazon is relevant to the next generation of consumers. With its dominance in e-commerce and strength in areas like video streaming, voice-activated technology, and video games through Twitch, Amazon is clearly executing on that goal.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.