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Students and the cost of living crisis: what’s the deal for brands?

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Student Marketing Expert

London

04 Oct 2022

Students and the cost of living crisis: what’s the deal?

The cost of living crisis is a term you’re likely well acquainted with by now. With most UK households feeling the pinch, students are no different. In fact, student living costs have risen 14%, despite their funding increasing by just 2.3%. 

The cost of living crisis: how are students impacted?

In a recent survey of 4,000 students commissioned by native, we found students consumers are changing the way they shop. 76% are cutting back on non-essential spending and 67% are looking for alternative products at lower price points. A significant number of students are also looking to top up their bank balance, spending money from their savings (37%), asking friends or family for financial support (27%) and looking for a new job or working more hours. 

New shopping habits and working patterns aren’t the only changes students are grappling with. The NUS has found 92% of students are reporting an impact on their mental health. University marks the start of a new chapter, and with that comes change. Already worried about looking after themselves (65%), missing family and friends (79%), the added stress of affording daily costs and being able to make the most of uni life is yet another worry is apparent for 86% of students, according to Student Minds.

Despite this, there’s optimism on campus. Gen Z students have their whole lives ahead of them. They’re excited to have financial freedom, to be living with friends for the first time, and determined to do well in their degree to open up the doors to graduate jobs. Pushing money worries aside, students are spending across verticals. With an average monthly budget of £1,157 according to RBS, students are spending 63% more on going out and 39% more on fashion compared with previous years. 

So, if your brand is targeting Gen Z, stick with it. Win their custom now and you’ll have their lifelong loyalty. But it’s more important than ever that you listen to Gen Z students' needs - and take action.

What do Gen Z students want from brands?

1. Listen to students’ needs

Social listening is a great way to keep on top of Gen Z trends - and needs. Whether it’s a TikTok trend, Twitter hashtag or Instagram reel, keep your ear to the ground to find out what’s happening on campus, so you can be reactive. Right now, students are calling out for content to support them through the crisis; 79% want money-saving tips, 67% are keen on side hustles to make money, 47% would find mental health tips useful, and 28% need a helping hand with their physical wellbeing. 

2. Show you understand them

The pressures faced by university-goers are starkly different to their peers working 9-5. Show them you understand this - through a student-specific marketing strategy. Not sure where to start? Speak to us about elevating your student marketing strategy across a national stage.

3. Stand strong on your values

Diversity is the norm for young consumers. They’re increasingly expecting brands to “take a stand”, authentically. So, pledge your support for the specific causes that align with your brand if you have something clear to say on those issues. And be warned, Gen Z aren’t afraid to call brands out when their actions don’t match their ideals; the recently dubbed ‘greenwashing’ comes to mind here - and really, not all press is good press!

4. Involve Gen Z in your marketing

A generation that celebrates their individuality, and have led to the demise of filters on social media, you might want to reconsider your influencer marketing strategy. Knit reported that 44% of 18-24s would think twice about buying from a brand that inauthentically partners with a celebrity influencer to endorse their products. Micro influencers with less than 10,000 followers are on the rise, and they have the trust of young consumers. Have you considered building micro influencers into your strategy?

5. Location matters

Different regions - even different universities - mean different things. The northern student population has different priorities (and cashflow) to the student audience studying in London. It’s important to understand and cater to their different wants and needs.

The student cost of living crisis is here to stay for a while, but it’s not dampening spirits on campus. Brands, help students have the university experience they deserve and you’ll be rewarded with loyalty that lasts way beyond their student years. Now you're up to speed on how the cost of living crisis is impacting university life, discover our top tips for advertising to students.