And the beat goes on: sanguine students continue to spend

Posted: 9 Jun 2020 - 12:13
And the beat goes on: sanguine students continue to spend
As yet, there is no wholesale view on when and how universities might continue to operate this year.

But with plenty of headlines about individual universities offering a blended start to the year, it seems the resumption of some sort of student life in this autumn is likely. 

And with what we’re hearing from prospective students about their preferences and intentions towards university in September, it seems that those brands waiting any longer for clarity could be risking their early connection with the influx of 600,000+ new Gen Z customers.

The state of the nation

As universities and colleges start to go public about what the autumn will look like, students are having to make decisions on what is now looking like a multi-level playing field. A blend of both on campus and online is coming out as the preferred option - but how this will play out in reality is what students are really looking for reassurance on. They’re still looking for at least some of that uni experience this autumn – with one fifth of A Level students concerned about what they’ll miss and increasing numbers starting to understand and worry about how changes could impact the way they learn. 

It’s clear that decisions this year may well not be made just on course, experience and academic achievement, but also on a uni’s response in supporting the Class of 2020. 

Whilst it will come as no surprise to hear that confidence about starting university is proving far from bulletproof, many applicants are simply considering the adjustment, not abandonment, of their plans. A desire for the traditional autumn start on campus remains prominent. 

Applicants are following their instincts when making their decisions. They are willing to contemplate change to ensure that, ultimately, it’s the right one for them - but they want as much information as possible to back it up. Even when those thinking about changing their mind are taken into account, most students still want to go to uni this year. 

Buying behaviours

Final decision or not, buying behaviours suggest that they’re still moving forward with the usual pre-term purchases. Spending may have slightly decreased across the board, but almost half of all university-hopefuls have still signed up to student discount programmes and a fifth have already invested in the essentials. Those who had set aside a large budget for entertainment have even increased it further. 

All signs point to the regular big student-summer for retailers:

  • 65% are still planning on buying new clothes, up to £200
  • 48% have kept travel spending in their budget
  • 27% intend to invest £200+ on technology purchases.

And for those looking to capitalise on the rush:

  • For technology, product reviews are the biggest influencers on spend
  • For clothing, discounts and promotions are the biggest factors
  • For general spending, parents still hold a lot of sway on what gets bought.

Engaging students

“The earlier, the better” has always been what our data has taught us when it comes to effective marketing and promotion to students. Thousands start their research and purchases long before they have their places confirmed – deciding the widgets and gizmos they want to take with them is part of a rite of passage. For many students, their choice of tech, of clothes and even of homewares says something about them – in the moment they become independently mobile.  Even in this, the most uncertain of years, plenty are already, or about to be, spending - and spending with optimism. 

Half of all students we’ve spoken to have seen an advertising campaign this week which stuck with them, and a fifth have gone on to make the purchase. But don’t forget what Gen Z students have been telling us all along; they want to buy from brands that convey an emotion and tell a story, rather than just sell products.

Our advice is to follow the lead of your customers; who are spending, planning, and banking on an autumn start; whatever it may look like. 

Yes, your tactics, channels and campaigns will need some tweaking. Any campus or fresher’s plans you had will need to be rethought. But in a time where the most switched-on generation is spending even more time on their devices, your chance to be seen has never been greater. Add to this that online spending rose by 22% in April, and in some sectors by as much as 140% [Source], it’s safe to say the floodgates have already been opened. 

And in a sector already hit hard by a myriad of challenges including Brexit, regulation, demographic dips and financial shortfalls; you can be sure that universities are going to be among the most motivated institutions to get back to normal as soon as possible.

The new normal, that is.

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