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Turn first-year students into lifetime fans

    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

    The highs and lows of Q3 for Gen Z

    Gen Z boasts a well-earned reputation for being a notoriously tricky demographic to get onyour side. So, how do you make students fall in love with your brand?...

    Gen Z first-years are storming the back-to-campus retail scene with shopping carts at the ready. Be it homeware, tech, or beauty, they’re gearing up to out-buy older students thanks to a higher proportion primed to purchase.

    And the clock's ticking. First-years are already scoping out products, and those who ace the marketing sprint claim the back-to-campus trophy. But let's look beyond the retail dash for a hot minute - with Gen Z's future earnings pegged at $3.5 trillion by 2030, securing their loyalty now could be your jackpot moment.

    The Gen Z loyalty showdown 

    In the US, 57% of Gen Z are less loyal to brands today than before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    And despite having go-to brands, Gen Z shoppers are open to exploring alternatives. A recent survey found that 62% would consider other options, with over half even willing to switch brands for cost savings or better quality. This syncs with our findings where students prioritise bargains and quality for their back-to-campus buys.

    Gen Z's fluid brand loyalty calls for a strategic approach. Solid brand, killer products? Check. Now, amp things up with loyalty programs. Because 79% of Gen Z love the idea of loyalty programmes and 60% think every brand should offer them.

    Gen Z is all about that easy-breezy shopping vibe. Loyalty programs packing perks like free delivery are their jam. Take the beauty sector as an example – over half of Gen Z would shop more often if same-day delivery was on the table. And remember, for these digital natives, snagging rewards should be a breeze and signing up, a cinch.

    Discounts are the MVP in the loyalty game

    Students named price cuts as their top buying driver across all categories in our research. Your program should flaunt not just eye-popping discounts, but markdowns on items that students seriously desire. That's where our research steps in. Smartly harnessing our exclusive insight into the products first-years are targeting can catapult your brand to the forefront of the fierce student market. This strategic move sets the stage for igniting that crucial loyalty among freshers and freshmen. 

    Sweet deals on first-years' fashion picks

    Freshmen are all about scoring deals on accessories, streetwear, and lingerie before the academic year kicks off. Meanwhile, UK freshers are seeking offers that bring luxury within reach, like nabbing a unique pair of discounted Nike kicks.

    The appeal of pre-loved isn't lost on students either, with nearly a quarter of them intending to purchase second-hand items. While traditional discounts might not make economic sense for second-hand items, consider exclusive perks like priority access to new arrivals, personalised style recommendations, or reward points for each purchase or trade-in. 

    Ethical beauty at a steal

    First-years are set to outspend older students in the beauty sector, and Gen Z dig ethical, cruelty-free products: 43% of UK students shun animal-tested products. The "clean" ingredient trend, as championed by Sephora, also holds sway, with 40% of Gen Z consumers valuing natural ingredients.

    Seize this opportunity to amp up loyalty and sales by offering student members discounts on your cleanest, most ethical beauty lines ahead of the academic year.

    Affordable school supplies 

    Nailing down the basics like school supplies are a must for 77% of freshers and a massive 86% of freshmen. With living costs on the up and up, first-years will love brands that help keep those uni expenses in check. 

    Think about bundling all those study essentials - stationery, laptop bags, notebooks - and then sweetening the deal with irresistible discounts. This could be a boss move in locking in first-years’ long-term loyalty.

    Discounted starter kits for homeware 

    Freshmen, splitting cash equally between homeware and school supplies, are a hot homeware market. They're typically investing in homeware like cooking gear, towels, and linens - unlike UK students as their digs usually come furnished. Starter kits, like Noah’s The Value Student Kit, offer solid value. Serve up discounts on such kits for loyalty program newbies, crafting a win-win for students and your brand. 

    Unmissable deals on laptops 

    Tech is a major player on the student shopping list with 47% of freshers and 66% of freshmen ready to splurge, especially on laptops and tablets. Brands like Apple, HP, Dell, and Lenovo are big hits. 

    Win over these tech-hungry students by offering a loyalty program tailored to first-time laptop buyers. Also, consider appealing to the cautious shopper with extended warranties or tech support packages. These added value offerings could just be the hook you need.

    Exclusive offers on new smartphones and tablets 

    First-year students in the UK and US are primed to snap up new smartphones or tablets. Savvy timing of your promos and discounts to align with fresh product launches can capitalise on this interest, particularly at summer's onset when students gear up for the new academic year.

    To entice those looking for tech upgrades, offer exclusive, timely deals on new releases as part of a student loyalty program. Flexibility is key, so consider payment plans that allow students to pay a portion upfront with the option to keep or upgrade later. Catering to the budget-conscious and bolstering brand loyalty by delivering a smooth, bespoke shopping experience that hits all the right Gen Z notes.

    Win student loyalty with UNiDAYS 

    We've helped major brands like Apple, VOXI, and The Fragrance Shop create student loyalty programs that are straight fire, vibing with Gen Z's wants, needs and values. Turn up the volume on engagement, multiply those orders, and watch your value grow as you become first-years’ go-to brand. You'll not only survive future challenges but slay them as Gen Z’s spending power grows. Let’s do this.

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      Think digital marketing is all it takes to reach Gen Z? Think again. Download the research report here.