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Tech trends in student shopping

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

    Get set for the back-to-campus rush

    As Gen Z prepare to head back to university, there’s a huge opportunity for brands to seize.Students will be stocking up on everything they need to hit the...

    A new report by UNiDAYS reveals how students buy their tech - including researching online, the amount they spend and the main drivers behind their purchases.

    96% students agree technology is vital to course success as latest research reveals UK student consumer tech trends.

    Our findings explained

    Following a survey of 5,000 students by UNiDAYS, the world’s largest student discount app, to uncover their spending habits, a resounding majority of 97% said that their laptop was crucial to their course success. In addition, 96% agreed that decent technology ensures their coursework is completed to the required standard.

    This indicates that, for those occupying the student bracket, technology is no longer regarded as a luxury item, but rather an everyday essential to guarantee both academic and long-term success.

    Having reliable technology in place, be it a laptop for coursework, an iPad for note taking, a printer for proofreading or, quite simply, a portable speaker to sing along to, can define the student experience. Whether you are a new student getting ready for university or a parent helping your loved one prepare and pack for their new start, knowing what to take is crucial. 

    When it comes to technology, there is no generation more connected than today’s students. They are digital natives who have never experienced life without the internet, smartphones, bluetooth or wifi. Also known as Gen Z, they are the ultimate early adopters, whose media and purchasing habits are now influencing the behaviors of Millennials and Generation X, and even the younger generations rising through the ranks and following them too.

    Students are the ultimate hyper informed and connected consumers whose real world and digital existence are essentially one of the same. To that end, they expect customised personalised products, services and value across every device and platform they encounter. 

    These alpha consumers live and breathe social media, instant messaging, video games and live-streaming; often all at the same time. Brands, therefore, cannot ignore, nor fail to urgently connect with this key demographic, which is fast defining social commerce, while shaping how we live.

    Josh Rathour, CEO of UNiDAYS, says:

    “Students have an annual estimated global spend power of $200bn and an indirect parental spend power of $3 trillion. By the end of 2020, Gen Z were forecast to be the largest group of consumers globally, but with an 8 second attention span, compared to 12 seconds of a Millennial, brands must not only capture their attention, but fight to keep it too.”

    89% of students do their research 

    The report reveals that only one in five students spontaneously purchase technology with 89% carrying out thorough research before making any rash decisions. Only 23% use social media for tech recommendations with the most popular research proving to be YouTube videos (47%), the in store experience (57%) and online tech sites (66%)

    Crucially, 65% of students rely on their previous purchasing experience when buying technology, proving that first impressions count for brands wanting to engage with the professionals of tomorrow. 

    Intent to purchase

    72% of students surveyed want to make a new technology purchase this year and 45% intend to buy two new products in the same time frame. The survey revealed that the main decision for making a new tech purchase was to upgrade current devices. In fact, 81% of these upgrades were for a new smartphone, followed by laptops (62%) and headphones/speakers (59%). However, fitness trackers and tablets were more likely to be a first time purchase for students. 

    Technology wish list

    Aside from new laptops and smartphone upgrades, iPads and tablets were in the top five devices students wished they had bought during their first year of university to assist them in their studies and downtime. And, according to UCAS, one-third of students regret not buying a printer, after relying on library credits to hit a deadline or proofread an essay after having spent hours in front of a screen, which is not ideal. 


    One in three students said that they are willing to wait until they find a discount to purchase the technology they want. 92% use a discount code regularly and 82% are loyal to brands who offer codes.

    Josh Rathour adds: "89% of over 5,000 students stated that their laptop and devices help them keep in touch with family and friends and 87% said reliable tech helps with stress levels. UNiDAYS is proud that we can help in any way possible to make the university experience more affordable and fun, while enhancing students’ wellbeing and quality of life.” 

    Keeping ahead of the curve

    Students may make mindful, rather than impulsive, technology purchases but this does not stop them from keeping a watchful eye out for the latest devices on the market. Over one-fifth (21%) of those surveyed said they wanted to lead the way by being the first among their friends to buy the most up-to-date technology. 


    Where is the technology being purchased from and what’s the budget?

    We wanted to find out how students feel about specific devices, what floats their boat, what they are willing to pay and whether or not they are likely to repurchase them.

    Headphones span work, travel and play

    When buying headphones, over half of students (57%) buy them online, rather than in store, which makes sense given their digital native status. A quarter of those surveyed said that they are planning to buy a new pair of headphones this year, with 55% saying this was in order to upgrade their current tech set up.

    When asked about their budget, 25% said they were planning to spend between £101 to £500, with price and quality being the main purchase drivers as confirmed by two-thirds of those surveyed.

    76% of UNiDAYS members bought headphones to help them chill out. Wireless headphones are particularly commonplace on campuses and helpful for traveling to lectures, pumping iron in the gym or drowning out noise when on a deadline. 


    Smartphones are key to socialising 

    Students buying a new smartphone are mostly in search of an upgrade (81%) and 10% appear to have deep pockets, enjoying a budget of over £1,001. 49% are making this purchase online, rather than in store with over one-fifth (28%) resorting to a credit based payment.

    89% of students use their smartphones to socialise and catch up with friends and, as with headphones, price and quality were the main purchase drivers. However, product reviews (42%) and brand reputation (34%) were also important, again indicating that many tech purchases by students are thoughtful and considered.


    Fitness trackers are in demand

    More than half of students are health conscious and in the market to purchase a fitness tracker for the first time to help them effectively measure their exercise efforts. As a result, two-thirds (66%) will happily pay outright for this particular piece of kit. 

    54% are guided by positive product reviews and 61% said that price was an important factor before they parted with their cash. 


    Games consoles help students connect with friends

    There have been several high profile game console drops in the last year, including the PS5, so it’s inevitable that just over one-fifth (21%) of students plan to buy one this year, while half are contemplating an upgrade in order to play among friends.

    Just under half of people will make the purchase online (48%) and 14% will complete their purchase through monthly installments. However, a resounding majority of 61% will take the financial hit and pay upfront.

    marta-filipczyk-mN5-yjVGBAI-unsplashTablets are convenient study tools

    80% of people surveyed bought a tablet to study with as they are more portable and practical than a laptop for bringing to lectures. Only 56% purchased one simply for relaxing and recreation.

    44% of students plan to buy their new tablet outright and one-quarter will spend between £101 to £500, while 38% will seek help from family and friends. Just under half (46%) will buy a tablet for the first time, with almost the same amount buying one specifically for the upgrade.

    Quality, price and product reviews all convinced students to make this purchase, however previous experience (28%) and brand reputation (25%) were also important factors.


    Laptops are universally viewed as vital study aids

    Laptops are often expensive and our survey revealed that one in five (20%) of students will pay over £1,000 when they next buy one. 13% will pay in installments and nearly 40% will ask for help from friends and family.

    61% plan to upgrade, while just 25% will buy a laptop for the very first time, showing that this demographic really has grown up alongside the digital revolution. A massive 97% will sensibly use their new laptop for studying.

    More powerful but less portable PCs and desktops were also a popular option, with 14% planning to buy one this year and 20% parting with over £1,000 for it as a result. One-third of those purchases will be an upgrade from previous technology and 40% of students will be buying from a combination of online and in-store. 85% of these devices will be used for study purposes and 40% for relaxing, whether that’s streaming content, browsing the web or listening to music. 

    So what do these findings tell us?

    It is fair to say that no one can say no to a good discount and, for cash strapped students, they often provide a means to enable them to buy the technology which will support them throughout their studies and beyond.

    Here at UNiDAYS, we offer a helping hand to students who are on the lookout for the latest tech at the best price. In fact, 75% state it’s actually the FIRST place they visit to find the best deals, making us the preferred destination for members wanting exclusive tech discounts and offers.  

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