Majoring In Shopping: What College Students Want From Online Brands

Students are gearing up for their fall college terms. Now is the time to engage them with emails and other messages, judging by "Is It Back to Normal For Students when They Return To School?," a study by SheerID. 

But remember that college kids want student-friendly brands. And whatever their vocabulary, they love the word "Free." 

For instance, 83% of U.S. students find free shipping, checked bags and other such perks the most appealing. Second is most Buy One, Get One Free (72%) and third a free gift (71%).  

In addition, 82% in the U.S. students would likely try a that offered a student discount code.  And 54% of students in the U.S. would use a discount code to make a purchase from a brand they have not tried before.  

Moreover, 49% would purchase sooner, and 47% would buy more items than they would have otherwise. Also, 72% would do try a firm if a friend recommended it, and 78% would try it if a family member suggested it.  



However, 40% would not try a brand or product recommended by a social influencer. And the same is true in the EU.  

Student-friendly brands are those that: 

  • Provide student discounts
  • Sponsor programs that support students
  • Support causes that students care about
  • Feature people like me in their marketing and communications
  • Have student influencers and spokespeople 

Most students are shopping online more frequently than they did before COVID-19. For example, they are:

  • Browsing — 58%
  • Purchasing — 55%
  • Spending — 51%

 Emails with discounts are less likely to be forwarded than offers in other channels. In the U, S., students are more likely to share via: 

  • Instagram — 53%
  • Send text(s) — 47%
  • Tell them in person — 34% 
  • Snapchat — 33% 
  • Share a referral link through the brand’s website — 17% 
  • Forward an email I received about the discount — 17% 

Email forwarding is ranked even lower in Europe. 

What are students doing to get ready for school? They plan to 

  • Buy new clothes or accessories — 49% 
  • Get a job — 49%
  • Get additional financial support — 44% 
  • Keep my current — 36%
  • Purchase new furniture/décor — 30% 

But they are delaying purchases in these areas:

  • In-person entertainment (concerts, movies, sporting events, etc.) — 75%
  • Clothing — 58% 
  • Accessories — 52%
  • Electronics/hardware — 38%
  • Furniture/décor — 37%

Where will students live when they get back to school? The study found that 36% are now living off campus near their school, and fewer than that are living with their families and on campus.  

Meanwhile, here are the top-ranked schools — by redeemed student offers: 

  1. University of Central Florida 
  2. Southern New Hampshire University 
  3. New York University
  4. Western Governors University
  5. Texas A & M University (College Station)
  6. Ohio State University 
  7. University of Illinois (Urbana-Champagne)
  8. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
  9. The University of Texas (Austin)
  10. Grand Canyon University 

In conclusion, the study recommends that brands:

  • Recognize student status.
  • Streamline the process and provide immediate gratification.
  • Give Gen Z control over their privacy. 
  • Prioritize mobile engagement.

In partnership with Riddle & Bloom, SheerID surveyed 900 college students in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 400 from France, Germany and the UK in March 2021. 

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