Freshers 2020: what are students expecting to see from brands?

Navigating Freshers and COVID-19 at the same time comes with its own unique set of challenges. But with or without lockdown students have certain expectations from brands at this time. As Freshers 2020 draws nearer, now is the perfect time to see how your marketing strategy aligns with Gen Z’s expectations.

Freshers 2020: embrace the new normal 

Freshers will look very different this year – COVID-19 has reshaped university accommodation, teaching and socialising as we know them. It goes without saying that many staple large-scale events of Freshers Week – such as balls and club nights – will not go ahead this year. But with 86% of students who planned to head to university this Autumn still intending to do so, we expect that unis will get creative via scaled-down events and virtual meet-ups.

Gen Z is a highly adaptable generation. Very early in lockdown, we saw students pivot to purchasing more loungewear, tech, beauty and cosmetics as they embraced life at home. They will likely rise to the challenge of starting university amidst a global pandemic, finding innovative ways to enjoy Freshers week. In turn, 2020’s students will expect brands to tailor their marketing strategies to their unique Freshers experience – perhaps by focusing on the perks of staying in and getting to know new flatmates, working out at home and investing in new tech.

Students turn their focus to technology as they prepare for University.

As some lockdown restrictions are lifted, it’s worth thinking about what students will be most excited to do in their new area. When we asked students what they were looking forward to after lockdown, meals out (67%), going shopping (65%) and holidays (63%) were among their top five. Savvy brands will keep this in mind during Freshers and beyond it.

Gen Z: understanding their worries 

Starting university is an exciting time – but also a nervewracking one. Our student insiders described feeling excited about being independent and moving away from home, but also apprehensive – “I was nervous about having to look after myself for the first time – cooking my own meals and doing my own washing,” said Amanda, a 20-year-old bioengineering student at Loughborough. Keep your Freshers marketing well-pitched and relevant; strike the right balance between speaking to students’ excitement and nurturing them through their worries.

Gen Z are not reckless spenders – having enough money for living costs, study costs and social activities are among their top concerns. You can help financially savvy young people to navigate Freshers by offering stackable discounts and deals that align with their budgeting. They’ll start figuring this out from the moment the first loan drops – so it’s vital that your student marketing campaign is primed to make a first impression.

Student shopping: where do you fit in?

While most UK universities start welcoming students in September and October, our student insiders made their first purchases much earlier. “It was around mid-August I started shopping,” said Kenneth, 21, who studies Computer Science at Newcastle. “The first place I went to was Ikea, naturally, and I bought a lot of kitchen stuff, like pots and pans, plates, duvets and a pillow.” Kenneth also bought clothes, stationery, and a computer before he even left home.

Freshers shopping: are you front of mind for first-time students?

August is the most common month for future students to start spending, with 32% making their first purchase then. But with some young people shopping as early as May, the sooner your student campaign kicks off, the more opportunities you have to connect with them.

Freshers is a time when students start to cultivate their own spending habits. From building affinity to a supermarket or takeaway to making long-term investments in tech, the purchases they make will play a part in shaping their identity. For brands looking to make it onto their shopping lists, it’s crucial to get Freshers 2020 right.

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