Gen Z Students in 2023 | 5 Key Themes

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The world of Gen Z is never still. Nothing about this empathetic, creative, diverse generation can ever truly be predicted thanks to the intertwining worlds of social media, pop culture and world news. 

As we collectively look towards the future and brands continue building relationships with student consumers, we wanted to use this opportunity to share how your brand can prepare for the year ahead. What’s driving this generation forwards? How are they communicating with one another? And how’s their outlook on life developing? From the changing face of social media to their spending habits, here are five key themes that you need to be aware of in 2023. 

5 key student themes for 2023

1. Snapchat, Gen Z and immediacy

Gen Z’s world is cyclical in nature. Whether it’s a resurgence in crocs or the return of low rise jeans, this generation loves to look backwards in order to move forwards. And social media app Snapchat is no exception. Arguably, 2015 saw the app’s peak, with nearly every young person scrolling through a variety of filters to Snap a photo to their friends. And yet the following years saw a steady decline for the app, particularly when faced with competition from other social platforms such as TikTok. 

However, Student Beans’ insights agency Voxburner has revealed that 78% of US and UK Gen Z students are now back using the app. 2023 is set to be its year, but why is this? Well, young people are seeking personal, intimate connections more than ever before. Next year will see young people stepping back from overwhelming social media and trolls, instead investing their energy into the platforms that bring them closer to their nearest and dearest.  


According to Snapchat, 9 out of 10 young people are on the app, with Snapchatters spending an average of 30 minutes a day on the platform. Our advice is to use these stats to your advantage in 2023 by using Snap Ad tools to connect you with young people. Take SHEIN, for example – they saw a 20% increase in ROI upon using Snap Ad App Install ads and Story Ads, as well as the platform’s optimization tools. These aren’t figures you can afford to miss out on, so make sure Snapchat is included in your social media strategy work in 2023!

2. Creativity and authenticity will encourage connection between brands and consumers on Pinterest

For not too dissimilar reasons, we’re also predicting big things for Pinterest in 2023. Currently 43% of UK and 54% of US Gen Z students use the app, whether that be for inspiration, creation or aspirational reasons. Much like Snapchat, Pinterest removes the opportunity for negative interactions with other users, whilst also having a much more calming and creative influence. 

In terms of your brand’s relationship with Pinterest, it’s simple. Pinterest reported that 445 million people use Pinterest every month to find ideas and inspire their next purchase, whilst Gen Z ‘Pinners’ are up 40% year over year. By taking your authentic brand image to this platform driven by forward-thinking, engaged and creative young people, your brand and products will become a part of their everyday pinning (and lives).

3. Gen Z will be looking to brands for discounts and cheaper alternatives

When purchasing from a brand, 90% of UK and 91% of US Gen Z students say that price is the most important thing for them, swiftly followed by value for money (85% UK, 80% US). This is unsurprising – we’re living through a rising cost-of-living crisis and are recovering from a global pandemic. As a result, 2023 is the year that Gen Zers will be getting savvy with their money. A recent Voxburner infographic revealed that 80% of students will be cutting down on non-essential spending over the next six months, whilst 69% will be looking for cheaper versions of products. Additionally, 77% of students will be looking to use student discounts to cut down their spending; this provides brands with the perfect opportunity to step in and support young consumers with deals and savings. 

In a recent Student Beans webinar, Alex Ighalo, Senior Media Strategist at Student Beans, shared how brands can use this information to curate the perfect 2023 marketing strategy. “Use this time over the next 12-18 months to focus on what your customers value”, he said. “Price is a really strong factor and massively determines whether a student shops with your brand or competitor brand”. 

P.S. Want to hear more about how you can tap into those student groups and boost sales next year? Get in touch with us today.

4. Gen Z will be favouring the brands who work with diverse content creators and influencers

Diversity has always been important to this generation (as it should be), but we predict that they’ll be placing even more emphasis on this in 2023. Recent Voxburner research revealed that only 6% of UK Gen Z students strongly feel that they are represented by content creators/influencers, whilst 33% somewhat agree. Meanwhile, 14% of UK Gen Z students strongly believe that they’re not represented by content creators/influencers. When we look at the stats, the solution is obvious: Gen Z consumers are crying out for true, genuine representation. And this, of course, will lead to higher engagement and sales. Edinburgh university student Phoebe says: “It can feel disingenuous to buy items from brands that do not represent the community that they claim to cater for, whether that be through the lack of diversity and representation… or by where their money stems from.” 

A successful case study comes from one of Voxburner’s 2023 Challenger Brands, clothing retailer Edikted. As our insights agency discusses in the report, Edikted’s total focus on their Gen Z shoppers flows throughout the brand. Their aim? ‘To significantly increase the presence of women and colour, from diverse backgrounds, and who are all shapes and sizes among our Brand Models and ambassadors.’ But it doesn’t stop with their products and marketing, with 78% of Edikted’s HQ, 50% of their management and 50% of their worldwide management all being female. Edikted are the perfect example of a brand whose core focus on D&I will result in surging in popularity amongst the generation.

5. Gen Z will be seeking intimacy and community via their social networks

We’re seeing an increasing amount of brands delve into the worlds of Discord and Twitch, and this isn’t for lack of reason. These hubs of conversation and engagement nurture a sense of community and appeal to not only niche communities (such as gaming and tech), but also larger, more widespread ones, such as the student population. Currently, 25% of UK and 27% US Gen Z students use Discord, whilst 14% of UK and 12% US use Twitch, and we predict a continuing rise in these figures as the year progresses. 

Gen Z content creator and Discord influencer Ishaan says community is the big attraction for young people: “Discord is a place where content creators can build a community to interact with their audience. It’s a place where the audience can talk to each other too!”. In essence, it’s a place where like minded people can come together to discuss their passions, hobbies and interests. 

And what does this mean for brands in the new year? Well, if you haven’t got a Discord server, start exploring your options. It’s a place where brands can instantly connect with thousands of users – much like a tweet but without the word count. As Ishaan says: “Discord is a ‘hub’ of Gen Z. If a brand wanted to use a Discord creator to marketer towards Gen Z, a post on Discord could instantly reach 50,000 members in seconds, just by using an @everyone ping”. You can find out Ishaan’s top tips on how to engage Gen Z on Discord here. 

So there you have it. Our round up of five key Gen Z themes to be aware of in 2023. We know these themes will adapt and grow over the next 12 months, but hopefully you now feel more prepared as this generation develops and evolves. One thing’s for sure: we can’t wait to see what Gen Z has in store for us in 2023!

Want to know more about the student year ahead? Download our 2023 student marketing calendar to plan your 2023 campaigns.

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