The Purchasing Power of University Students (and How to Reach Them)

shopping college kids

Although fewer young people are heading off to get a degree, those who do are happy to spend money to get the most out of their university experience. According to Save the Student, students spend £69 a month on socialising, £32 on clothes, £126 on food and £32 on books — a £259 total for businesses to capture. And with Christmas just weeks away, followed by the January sales, it’s time to start gearing up with deals, offers and other buying incentives.

Students in 2018 fall into the Millennial or Gen Z category depending on which source you look at. This means that they:

  • Are totally comfortable with technology — it’s second nature to them
  • Love sharing moments from their life story and seeing other people’s
  • Care about positive change
  • Look for authenticity from brands

These traits are gold dust for small businesses like yours. An expert in one to one connections, you’re independent, plugged in locally and skilled at promoting your products on a personal level. Here are four ways to use your assets reach those students.

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1. Drive more user-generated content

User generated content (UGC) is a great marketing technique for small businesses. Not only does it give students the authenticity they’re looking for, it costs less time and money for you.

People love UGC. 85% of users think it’s more influential than a brand’s photos or videos in fact. So how can you get more of it?

  1. Create a unique hashtag.
    A unique, on-brand hashtag makes your UGC searchable and exclusively recognisable. Specific, short and catchy hashtags work best. Think of the type of values and themes students will be most likely to relate with and share.

  2. Choose your channels wisely.
    According to Ipsos MORI, the most popular social media channels with 16-22 year olds are Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, followed by Snapchat. See where your strongest following is, and don’t spread yourself too wide — you’ll need to keep tabs on how much content is being shared and what type of response it’s getting.

  3. Give something in return.
    Students love their content being seen and liked by the world, but you can create extra incentives by offering rewards and recognition through competitions and giveaways.

2. Host an Insta-worthy event

You could appeal to students’ love of sharing by setting up your own instagrammable event on open days, freshers’ week and throughout the term. Take a look at what photos these customers love to share, where they spend their time and what events they attend for inspiration.

Your ability to take payments fast, however students want to pay, is essential to the success of an event. With 23% of Gen Zers predicting that bank cards will soon become obsolete, having a card reader that accepts chip + PIN, contactless and mobile payments is essential to cutting queues and encouraging spending.

3. Make it easier to buy through social media

Students love social media, so why make them shop elsewhere? The typical journey of someone discovering your brand on social, visiting your website, browsing products, then making a purchase is a long one. Instead, use Facebook’s Collection Ads or shopping on Instagram, so that students can shop your range with total ease.

Students aren’t the most flush on cash of course, so tailor your campaigns to include budget-friendly deals.

4. Promote your social and environmental values

In a global survey from Deloitte, over 80% of Gen Z and Millennial respondents said that social and environmental practices were just as important as a company’s financial results. And with 60% of students demanding vegan and vegetarian food at their universities, now is the time to think about going green and promoting social responsibility through your business.

It doesn’t have to cost much either. Here are a few affordable ideas:

  • Add vegetarian or vegan dishes to your menu — these are often cheaper to prepare than meat-based meals
  • Offer non-dairy milks like oat and coconut in your coffee shop, or push the boat out and drive interest with something even more unusual
  • Only use biodegradable (e.g. paper) bags, cups, lids and straws
  • Use local suppliers and low-energy equipment (like LED lighting) to cut your carbon footprint
  • If you make your own clothing products, use organic, non-toxic fabrics

Students won’t know about your green habits unless you tell them about it. So use social media, in-store promotions and university marketing opportunities to get the word out.

Small businesses are perfectly placed to offer the type of unique buying experience these socially-conscious, tech-confident deal hunters are looking for. Your size, independence and innovative approach give you a unique advantage — because students value all three. They have more purchasing power than you may think. And it’s a match made in heaven if you’re willing to put yourself out there for this exciting audience.

Related Articles

Why Your Small Business Needs to be on Social Media
How to Define and Analyse Your Target Market
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