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Comment: Maximise the student market

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There is no doubt that the costs faced by students attending university are climbing. Annual fees are up to £9,000 a year and ongoing living costs are around £200 a week, according to MoneySupermarket.

What’s interesting is that student spend continues to grow, making the 18-24 year old market an attractive one to retailers. This is largely due to the student loan and different purchasing choices compared to the average working person with concerns such as mortgages and bill payments.

With Freshers’ Week taking place to celebrate the start of the academic year, students are stocking up on clothes, stationery, music and gadgets to equip them for the new term.

Online customer experience

Thanks to mobile technology giving users instant and easy online access, retailers are now able to deliver a multi-channel experience in order to reach students – regardless of how and when they want to spend.

We are already seeing brands working harder at targeting this young, savvy market. Retailers need to improve options for click and collect, next day delivery and free shipping to attract more customers from this age range. Many retailers are also introducing a student discount through platforms such as UNiDAYS® to improve their appeal to students used to getting discount on in-store purchases.

This relatively new way of attracting 18-24 year olds is already proving to be a success for retail companies. Recent research, based on our discounts with large global brands, shows that students are spending as much as 20% more online than the average customer and making double the number of purchases.

The student market is one that is significantly helping to drive e-commerce. Students are savvy with their money so spend time looking for offers online and they are more likely to share deals with friends on social media networks like Facebook.

With a combination of the right messaging and attractive offers, retailers can reach a thriving market and experience increases in customer order frequency and average order value.

Furthermore, they can see a rise in online sales worldwide. More and more UK retailers are trying to reach territories where student spend continues to evolve and improve, specifically online. As a result, we have seen brands like Urban Outfitters, ASOS, Topshop and Cath Kidston stretch as far as Australia.

In-store offers

What’s worth highlighting is that online shopping is not for everyone and that there will always be a place for in-store discounts. The key is in finding where the target market is and how they spend, and then adopting the right systems for them to make their purchases easily and quickly.

Some students will also choose to make purchases in-store as well as online. This is where mobile app technology can help retailers increase footfall.

Organisations should build partnerships with a discount source that already has a database of students to market to and that protects return on investment by verifying a student’s university status to ensure their promotions are not being misused. This way, users can simply download the partner app for free and show their student identification to the cashier in-store.

Size doesn’t matter

The 18-24 year old audience isn’t just for major retailers. Students are savvy with online shopping and will seek out the best deals from any company, big or small. A campaign to target this key audience needn’t be expensive anymore.

In our research, we found that smaller retailers typically see a financial return on investment within two months. They can also see an almost immediate 5-10% uplift in online sales after introducing a student discount strategy making the return on investment an attractive prospect for any retailer.

Traditional marketing routes such as advertising do not work for everyone, with the retail industry expecting to be able to measure marketing spend versus sales. For many brands, cost per click or impression is not enough.

Freshers’ Week will soon come to a close but the student spending frenzy will by no means taper off. Research is showing that the student market has great spending power, which continues to increase. By targeting students as part of their wider marketing strategy – and implementing student discount on their own terms – retailers can benefit from substantial customer acquisition, repeat business and overall sales.

Published on Wednesday 25 September by Editorial Assistant

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