Get ready – report to reveal big changes in student consumer behaviours

Thursday 10 March 2022, UCAS advice

Get ready – report to reveal big changes in student consumer behaviours

Dave Penney, Head of Education Marketing & Communications, UCAS

For the 11th year running, we’re getting ready to publish the results of our extensive research into student consumer behaviour.

And this year’s freshers are a little different – part Gen Z, part Isolation Generation – a unique group of young shoppers influenced by a unique experience. That’s why our Freshers Report, coming 3 March, is more important than ever for those looking to engage with this market. Inside, we’ll reveal what’s behind the rapidly changing mindset of today’s students – and what it means for brands.

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Value-hunting replaces bargain-hunting for conscious student spenders

Today’s 18 year olds are challenging the old student stereotypes. Instead of shopping with the lowest cost in mind, we’re seeing a shift towards finding the highest value – which isn’t always mutually exclusive with price. It may mean £12.99 spent on pre-loved designer clothes, rather than £9.99 for the latest fast fashion – or £30 on groceries rather than £25 on lunches on-the-go. ALDI, LIDL, and Vinted are just a few brands benefiting from this new appreciation of value, which is influencing behaviours across the board.


Student spending reaches its all-time high

You could have expected 3 years of COVID to result in more conservative spending from students, especially given the on/off closures of bars, restaurants, and shops. But for the third consecutive year, student spending has risen.

For Fresher’s Week, it’s up by 14% – whilst everyday spending has grown 10%. 

This is both stoicism and optimism. Students are committed to their spending and determined to have the experience they’ve been looking forward to, and it’s what makes them such an intriguing and attractive target for brands – but it’s not an easy market to unlock.


Unlock student purchasing power via ethics and values

A stubborn will to spend might be music to the ears of many retailers, but it comes with another characteristic which is much harder to monetise.

Today’s students are motivated by what’s behind the brand – its morals, its ethics, its values. Those which test on animals are a no-go for more than half of all freshers, and rumours of staff working in poor conditions are of equal concern to the conscious student shopper. In a digital age where information is easy to find and news spreads fast, brands must act with permanent and transparent integrity – in order to keep the student vote.


To read these stories in full, along with 32 pages of analysis on student spends and trends 2022, don’t miss the UCAS Freshers Report. Coming 3 March.

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