Reaching students in 2018 – a how-to guide

Posted: 7 Jun 2018 - 12:04
This year’s freshers are the first students to have been born in the 21st century. A new generation in a fast-changing market. Understanding what makes them tick can mean the difference between long-term brand engagement and missing out.

This year’s freshers are the first students to have been born in the 21st century. A new generation in a fast-changing market. Understanding what makes them tick can mean the difference between long-term brand engagement and missing out. 

Brands who wait until students start uni have missed a unique chance to engage. We see peak times during the application process when research starts, decisions are made, and purchases are committed to. 

The UCAS Media student lifestyle report provides some real insight into these key moments, as many face the biggest change in their life so far.

A social generation?

Marketing plans everywhere can relax, because the ever-ready, go-to marketing channel for targeting millennials – social media – remains just as important as ever. 84% of students surveyed said they used social media to network digitally, more than those who said they socialise in person. 

Spending on average 4.6 hours per day on social, Facebook is the primary choice. 83% use it daily, a slight dip from last year, but it still remains the chosen channel. The dip allowed Instagram and Snapchat (both used daily by 73% of students) to make up ground, while YouTube held its own, with 80% of students using the streaming site.

So, does that mean Facebook should be your primary social advertising channel? 

Not necessarily. According to students themselves, Facebook is used mostly for messaging and video calling, while Instagram and YouTube came out on top when it comes to researching brands and products. Do you allocate your time and budget to the most-used channel, or the one where students expect to find information on brands and products?

Online brand building

This year saw students using discount websites much more than in previous cycles. Of the two powerhouses, UniDays was the runaway leader, with 87% of all students remaining members. Broken down by age, more than 90% of 18 year olds are members. Despite the popularity of its discount card, only 38% of students were members of the NUS. The only other significant competitor, Groupon, attracts 31% of all students.

As for advertising on websites outside of this trio, there was general neutrality about third party display advertising unless it was relevant to them – over half of students commented on their preference for personalised offers.

Personalised direct communications

Another firm favourite of marketers, and despite the perception of its decline, email stands up to the test of the student market. The vast majority of students (96%) check their emails at least once a day, with 41% of them opening emails as soon as they come in. Much of this occurs either first thing in the morning, or when commuting, and almost always on a smartphone. 

More than three quarters of students told us they like to be contacted through email when it comes to offer and products, and are happy to receive emails from brands every week.

So for students, it’s all about the right message, at the right time

We know that Facebook, Unidays, and email are emerging as the prime contenders for 2018. We know content needs to be optimised for mobile, can be received weekly, and investment in banner advertisements is the way to go as long as it’s placed carefully. 

We advise any brand wanting to engage with a new student to be able to align their message to a student’s decision-making process. It’s a significant period of change in their lives, and that relevance is what defines success, and delivers results. 

The journey to purchase can be long. Students started researching in May or earlier for a new laptop or PC for uni, but most made their purchase after they were accepted in September. Students spent an average of £740.

Once they’re at uni, an average week’s spending for the UK student is £159, but, reflecting the change in lifestyle, this more than doubles during freshers’ week. On average, each student will spend £374 during September’s freshers week, with the majority of expenditure allocated to clothes and books. 

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 that 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, please call 01242 544881, or email [email protected].

Rebecca Hopwood
Sales Manager

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