How students are using technology

Posted: 4 Oct 2018 - 14:27
How students are using technology UCAS Media
From new social media algorithms, to shifting habits in device preferences, rapid changes in tech are both an opportunity and a threat to your marketing campaigns. But for students – possibly the most responsive group in the market – insights into those trends give you a clear steer.

Smartphones and students are more inseparable than ever in 2018, with average daily usage as high as 5.6 hours, and 99% ownership across the 11,500 students we asked during our UCAS Media student lifestyle report. According to our surveys, the most popular usage (74%) is for messaging friends and family, followed by 54% usage for social media. Ironically, just a third of students use their smartphone to make calls, but around a quarter use it for taking photos, streaming music, checking emails, and using online banking. 

For checking emails, smartphones enjoy a monopoly. 94% of students we asked said this is how they check their emails – an important point to note for marketers looking to optimise their content by device. But even if successful mobile email campaigns drive students to your website, you would need to look elsewhere for conversion – just 4% of students use their smartphone for shopping. 

Tablets are yet to become a staple in the student lifestyle, owned by less than half of students. Used just 2.6 hours per day on average, tablets appear to be more aligned to entertainment than laptops and smartphones. The most popular use was streaming video (45%), closely followed by playing games (43%). Reading, checking the news, and taking notes were other popular usages, and all three are almost non-existent in smartphone usage. 

One key point to make is that among students who own tablets, almost a quarter use them for online shopping. Compared to the 4% who use their smartphone for the same activity, marketers need to consider device optimisation of overall ownership (a clear victory for smartphones) vs. usage (tablets take the crown). Books were the most popular choice of purchase for tablet users, compared to gifts for the infrequent purchases on smartphones.

Laptops are owned almost as exclusively as smartphones, with 98% of students having one to hand. While used less than smartphones – at 3.8 hours on average per day – laptops were the primary device used for online shopping. Desktop PCs, perhaps due to being fixtures of most university libraries and study areas, still command 3.9 hours from students each day, and are also more popular for online purchases than smartphones or tablets. 

This distinction between the devices students are using to make online purchases is indicative of a multi-device shopping experience. Research published earlier this year shows that the vast majority of online shoppers are using a combination of devices, but the wider marketplace has already made the shift to a mobile-first purchase experience. Perhaps students have more faith in their laptop’s security than that of their smartphone, but for now, it’s a clear message that laptops and desktops are the drivers of student online purchasing.

Refocus your marketing 

To find out more, download the UCAS Media student lifestyle report, or get in touch. We’re in the perfect position to support brands students want to speak to, and support the verified student audience with products and services that will make their next step a confident one.

For more information on any aspect of the student lifestyle report, or to find out how we can connect your brand to this important audience, call 01242 544 881, or email ucasmedia@ucas.ac.uk.

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