Totalling 13.6 million in the United States and having spending power exceeding 237 billion annually, college students represent one of the largest, most appealing – and elusive – consumer segments for marketers and brands. College marks a time of transition, and these individuals are in the process of determining their likes and their dislikes and brand preferences. By establishing loyalty with college consumers early on, brands have the potential to gain loyal, lifelong customers.
However, college students are increasingly difficult to reach. Their expectations of the brands they encounter in college are high, their needs as consumers are evolving, and they are extremely territorial and protective of their college community. So how exactly can brands reach and make a positive impact on today’s college market?
WHAT WE DID:
- Discussion groups on seven college campuses with 47 college students
- Half-daylong student shadows and consumer intercepts on two college campuses
- Online survey of more than 2,500 current college students, ages 18–24
KEY QUESTIONS ADDRESSED:
- What do companies need to know about college students’ lifestyles, mind-sets, motivations and behaviors to better connect with college consumers?
- What are the daily lifestyle touch points of college students, and how do they translate to brand affinity and loyalty?
- Which touch points have the greatest impact on students’ college experience, and what can companies do to enhance or improve this experience?
- How can companies leverage the power of Green to build customer advocacy in college students?
TOUCH POINT DEFINED:
Any point in the customer transaction of purchasing or using a product or service where the customer experiences, or is touched by, the brand.
COLLEGE TOUCH POINTS EXPLORED:
- Virtual Interactions
- Live First Impressions
- Residential Areas
- Campus Dining
- Modes of Transportation
- Campus Life
There are specific points of access for breaking into the college bubble
AMP Agency, in partnership with ARAMARK Higher Education, a leading provider of dining and facility services to universities, set out to understand the realities of college life today and uncover points of entry for brands and marketers looking to connect with and build customer loyalty in college students. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, AMP Agency spoke with 47 college respondents in person and surveyed more than 2,500 college students online to determine exactly where and how brands can align their products and services with college students’ lifestyle experiences, unmet needs and high expectations.
With this study, we have uncovered what is most important to college students in the college environment and provided a framework that brands can leverage to better connect to the needs of this fickle audience.
College has become a luxury good. This has great impact on students' expectations of their college experience
Getting into college has become as competitive as it is expensive. The exorbitant costs associated with college educations, coupled with an increase in demand for a college degree, has great impact on students’ expectations of the products and services they encounter at school. Considering the luxury-good status of college, students are now demanding that brands entering into this space offer them a certain level of control over how they interact with a product or service.
College students have grown accustomed to getting what they want, when and how they want it. Within the college environment especially, customization, convenience and flexibility contribute greatly to perceived value.
While approximately half (52%) of college students surveyed look favorably on the products and services provided on campus, a mere 19% classify these offerings as excellent. We found that on-campus enhancements that interest students most meet their need for increased convenience and the feeling that they have input on their on-campus experience, as evidenced in the chart below.
There is an incredible opportunity for brands to better engage college students by understanding the nature of students’ product and service needs within the college environment.
Building loyalty in college students occurs in stages
Before establishing programs, products or services intended to “wow” college students, brands must deliver on the basic items they need and expect to be provided. This figure represents a framework for building customer and brand loyalty in college students, starting from the ground up:
Today’s college consumers come with a new set of requirements. Based on the findings from this study, we have classified this hierarchy of needs and provided examples to illustrate distinctions between each stage. Below is an overview of each category within this hierarchy, which we address in full detail in the study.
This relates to a company’s ability to deliver on the product or service fundamentals. Put simply, deliver to the customer what you say you are going to deliver and offer good quality at a good value.
On-campus example: Hot running water every morning in the bathroom
This is where brands begin to separate themselves from competitors and provide additional value to customers by accommodating their emerging needs. One example is AT&T allowing customers to roll over their unused cellphone minutes, month to month. Customers feel entitled to use the minutes they’ve purchased when and how they wish, and do not want unfair restrictions on how they stay connected to their social network.
On-campus example: Access to free wireless Internet on campus
At this level, brands further define who they are and what makes them unique to other brands. One example is J.Crew retail stores handing out water bottles to customers as they shop and wait in register lines. This unexpected handout enhances shoppers’ comfort level.
On-campus example: Personal temperature-control dials in dorm rooms
This refers to brands going above and beyond the basics to deliver enhanced products or experiences that strongly connect with customers. For example, Hertz Rent A Car Gold Members’ cars are running from the moment their flights land, eliminating their wait times. This rewards customer loyalty with a hassle-free experience and special treatment.
On-campus example: Heated, underground tunnels connecting buildings
Today’s college students’ expectations are high, so brands must tailor their messages and product and service offerings to directly address college consumers’ evolving needs. AMP Agency can show you how.
Read the full report to learn more insights from this study about college consumers.
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