Where Do College Students Spend Their Money?

where do college students spend their money

College students are notoriously for constantly being “broke” – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t spending money. In fact, according to a Nationwide study, three out of four college kids hold down jobs while they’re in school and 84% admit to having at least one credit card to help subsidize their lifestyles. While much of this spending goes to school expenses, 40% of it is actually labeled “discretionary” spending, which means that even though they’re keeping their college bookstores afloat, they’re also spending plenty of money at local pizza joints, bars and stores.

With this in mind, the power of the college student spender can’t be ignored. A research study from ecampus.com found that this segment of the population spend a whopping $60 billion each year on every day needs. Although $33 billion of this was tagged as “back-to-school items,” this category didn’t just include standard school supplies. It also accounted for things like dorm room furnishings and electronics.

What’s more, the ecampus.com determined that college kids spend $27 billion on things deemed to be “non-essential items.” According to the study, students ages 18-24 spend $5 billion each year on clothes and shoes, and $5.5 billion on alcohol. They spent another $2.4 billion on entertainment, which includes things like music, DVD and on-demand movie rentals, and video games.

Because college students live in that “sweet spot” of adulthood – where they have all of the freedom of being adults without any of the responsibilities – budgeting isn’t exactly their top priority and the spend money pretty much as soon as they have it. And although most of their money is earmarked for going out, they also buy plenty of other stuff, from beauty products to vacations.

The lesson to be learned here is that college students can’t be ignored as a significant market for businesses of all types to target. While they’re working their summer jobs and taking a break from classes, take some tie to evaluate your marketing strategy and determine how you can get a bigger piece of the spending pie. With the right mix of products and marketing, you can gear up to hit the college scene hard in August, when the spending cycle restarts itself and students are back into their routine of studying, working, and spending big on their lifestyle needs.

Be sure to check out the infographics below!

Case Study: GoSmart Mobile Scavenger Hunt Is A Win!


6 Tips For Marketing To College Students

student on campus marketing cellphone

College students love to spend money – and with an estimated 18 million college students in America, there’s plenty of opportunity for businesses to capture some of those dollars. Today’s college-aged consumers are among the most tech-savvy and trendsetting in history, but the stereotype of “broke college kids” means that they’re often ignored when organizations develop their marketing plans. We have some tips on how to effectively market to this important group of consumers and get a piece of their $60 billion spending.

Provide back-to-school promotions and incentives. College students might have spending power, but they still look for deals. Take advantage of the sweep of back-to-school spending with deals and promotions. For example, if you run a restaurant, offer a free appetizer with the purchase of an entrée and if you work for a retailer, promote a BOGO or half-off special.

Understand your age. It’s ok to be old – but own it and understand that you might not know how to effectively market to much-younger people. Rather than try to hard or attempt to be hip – two things that will incite collective eye rolls among college students – consider hiring a recent college grad or college-aged intern who can provide some insight into what young people want.

Keep it simple. College students have short attention spans and a lot going on in their lives. They aren’t interested in convoluted messages or taking advantage of promotions that require jumping through hoops. Keep your marketing simple and to-the-point.

Use targeted marketing. If you think back to your own college years, chances are that you were attracted to much different things, language and aesthetics than you are now. So, why would today’s college students be attracted to the same advertising and marketing as people 10+ years their senior? Develop a targeted campaign using different messaging and designs specific to college students, and – when necessary – create different landing pages and social media accounts to capture this audience.

Invest in mobile marketing. College students have never known a world without cell phones – and many of them have used smartphones for almost half of their lives. They’re used to having whatever information they need at their fingertips – which means it’s critical that you be available through that medium. Investing in a great mobile site or app can help put you front-and-center among college-aged consumers, and ensure that you don’t miss the boat when students quickly search their phones for the nearest restaurant that serves cheap hot wings.

Stop Waiting for Millennials to “Grow Up”!

millennials generation whitehouse report

It’s no secret that Millennials are different than every generation that’s come before them. Americans ages 19 to 36 are currently the biggest generation in the U.S. – numbering a staggering 75.7 million – have a value system radically different than their predecessors and are creating entirely new behavior and consumption patterns. Increasingly, they are choosing to spend their money on experiences rather than stuff, eschew big purchases on things like cars and houses, and aren’t particularly interested in getting married and having kids – at least not any time soon. Whereas past generations have focused on things like practicality and family, Millennials are far more interested in happiness and passion.

The Millennial generation has piqued such curiosity that study after study has been conducted to figure out what makes them tick. We have boatloads of information on their purchasing habits and value systems. And, yet, marketers continue to get it wrong when marketing to Millennials.

Because Millennials are, technically, adults, brands generally market to them in the same ways that they have to past adult generations. Companies are marketing to this demographic based on their own expectations of what they should value, rather than what they actually do value. Basically, they’re waiting for Millennials to conform to traditional definitions of “growing up.” But Millennials have grown – or are growing – up. They’ve just done it in their own way.

If brands want to capitalize on this group’s spending power, they need to conform to Millennials, instead of expecting things to happen the other way around. This generation is driven by happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery, and it’s critical that they feel informed and involved in the decision-making process – simply being marketed to doesn’t work for this generation.

The brands that have understood and adapted to Millennials’ needs have thrived in the market. Uber is an excellent example of an organization that identified what Millennials perceived to be a real problem – transportation that is both easy to find and easy to pay for – and capitalized on it by providing a useful solution to the issue that engages the target audience. Other companies, like Red Bull, have seized on Millennials’ desire for experience by creating a series of signature events that connect the generation to the brand.

Brands that are frustrated by fruitless attempts to capture this critical audience take note: Stop trying to make Millennials conform to what you think they should value at this stage in their lives and instead conform to what they value. Because while you haven’t been paying attention, Millennials actually did grow up – they’re just not interested in buying what you’re selling.

White House report on Millennials: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf

Goldman Sachs infographic page on Millennials: http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/

college graduation

There just might be something to be said for that “gap year,” after all.

Anyone who’s started a new career has come up against the Catch-22 of being unable to land a job due to a lack of experience – but no way to get the experience without finding a job. Employers don’t want someone who’s so green that it will require hours of time to train and acclimate the person – which is why it’s so important that college students get internships and other lower-level positions to gain experience in their chosen industries before trying to enter the working world.

A new report in The Atlantic is sure to rock even the cockiest college kid who believes that his smarts and 4.0 GPA will land him his dream job right out of school. According to the article, skills far outweigh college degrees when it comes to getting a job, something that’s “a startling admission” in a country programmed to believe that all paths to career success start in the halls of our nation’s universities.

Rather than a piece of paper, employers value technological knowledge and social skills. Most people agree that an ability to work with a diverse group of people is key to climbing the corporate ladder. So, if you’re that brilliant guy who just can’t seem to play nice with others, you’re not exactly a hot commodity.

None of this is to say, of course, that a college degree is worthless – it’s just not the “end all, be all” of employment. These days, many young people are turning to technical schools for things like graphic design and vocational skills as an alternative to universities – and they’re doing just fine. Experts point out that college is not for everyone and today’s world is packed with different needs that provide opportunities for careers that just don’t require a college degree.

For organizations marketing to the college-aged demographic, studies like this provide a slew of promotional opportunities. A company selling textbooks might push books about internships and career-building, or offer workshops on jumpstarting a career or working with different personality types. A retailer might offer a end-of-school sale on work supplies and attire to get students ready for their summer jobs and internships. If you run a bar or restaurant, free lunch contests where students enter by placing a business card in a fishbowl or special happy hours geared toward young workers are great ways to get people in your doors.

Do you agree with the article in The Atlantic? Are skills more important than a college degree or would you balk at hiring someone who wasn’t educated at a university?

Campus Bookstores Must Evolve To Survive Changing Times

books old library

The days of college student purchasing their textbooks at campus bookstores are on their way out. According to a recent study, “Why Campus Bookstore Textbook Sales Continue to Decline (According to College CFOs)the vast majority of school bookstores nationwide have seen flat or declining sales over the past three years. The data isn’t exactly surprising. An influx of online retailers, like BIGWORDS.com, offer students drastically reduced prices and doorstep delivery – two things that the average college student can’t resist. Additionally, an expert in the book market recently predicted that the market for print textbooks would decline by about 95% over the next few years, as students and teachers alike will increasingly migrate toward ebooks.

The reality is that discount online retailers aren’t going anywhere and if the campus bookstore wants to survive, it needs to evolve – selling books and sweatshirts just isn’t going to cut it in the Internet age.

Certainly, schools can create their own online bookstores and offer things like delivery and on-site pickup for students. But this won’t be enough to keep them afloat – and doesn’t solve the problem of the stiff competition their facing from online sellers who can offer books at drastically reduced prices. Instead, it’s time to completely revamp the whole college bookstore concept. Creating a “destination” for students is one way that stores can accomplish this. For example, a boutique might feature an area for tech support, a café where students can have coffee while they wait for their equipment to get fixed and dorm room novelty items that you can’t find at a place like Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Retailers say that insignia items are still popular and schools can seize a cash flow – and branding opportunity – by getting creative about what merchandise they decorate with their logos. These days, t-shirts aren’t enough to cut it. Think laptop sleeves, headphones and glasses cases. Keep in mind that college students don’t have a ton of money to throw around, so if you want to take advantage of insignia merchandise, stick to things they need and will buy, anyway – a throw blanket or paper weight probably won’t make it in the budget.

And it’s not just the merchandise and services of the campus bookstore that needs to change – the ambience needs to, as well. Trade out fluorescent lighting and boring shelving for bright colors and comfortable seating. The bookstore needs to become a place that students want to be, rather than a place they avoid in favor of the convenience of shopping from their dorm room couches. 

The campus bookstore isn’t doomed – it just needs to change. In order to sell to college students, you need to think like a college student. So, get with the 21st century and evolve with the times.

Will Uber Court Ruling Kill the Rise of Service-Based Apps?

uber court ruling

Over the past two years, Uber has become a household name nationwide. The ride hailing service has put the kibosh on the days of fruitlessly hailing cabs and created a business model that allows regular Joes to make a few extra bucks when they’re not in the office. The company has not been without controversy since its inception – its price surge policy has pissed off plenty of riders – but its mainly just enjoyed a quick rise to the top. Announcements of major U.S. recruitment efforts indicate that Uber has no intention of going anywhere anytime soon.

Unfortunately, a court battle over employee classification could change Uber’s world domination. Currently, Uber drivers are considered contract workers. They use their own cars, make their own hours and work at their own leisure. An Uber driver can work as much or as little as he or she likes. Through this type of agreement, Uber doesn’t actually employ any of its workers, so isn’t subject to things like payroll taxes, benefits costs or insurance. However, a case was recently brought against Uber in California by a driver who claimed that she is actually an employee – and the California Labor Commissioner agreed.

Many people are quick to declare the ruling “Uber’s worst nightmare” and one reporter even wondered if it could affect the organization to the point that it could be “instantly vaporized.”

While this ruling does seem like a big deal on its face, many experts say that it’s not a death knell for the juggernaut. It doesn’t actually set a precedent for all California drivers and its non-binding precedent – meaning that it doesn’t have to be enforced by other courts. Uber has appealed the ruling, which means that it’ll be heard by a higher court in San Francisco, but that court doesn’t have to take the lower ruling into consideration at all – the case will basically start fresh. In order for it to become binding and applicable to drivers across the state, it would have to be appealed all the way up to the California Supreme Court and that court would have to rule that drivers are employees– and there’s no reason to believe we’re close to reaching that yet.

Even if all of this did eventually blow up, it wouldn’t spell the end of the company. Courts move slowly and Uber would have time to revise its business model before it ever became a major issue capable of wiping out the organization. Unfortunately for Uber, this issue doesn’t show any signs of going away. Another driver filed a case in federal court that has the potential to become a class-action lawsuit. And if that happens, all bets are off.

What do you think? Should Uber be concerned about its future or will it continue its march toward total world domination?

communicating texting is better than talking

Never before in history has it been so easy to communicate with people. We can comment on a friend’s Facebook post, voice our opinion on Twitter, share a YouTube video to teach a lesson, and shoot of a series of text messages while we do all of these things. Over the past few years, experts have begun to speak out about how our reliance on electronic communication is turning us into lousy conversationalists and inept writers who don’t seem to grasp basic grammar. Most of us will admit that it’s laziness that is driving us to turn to texting as a primary form of communication – but it’s coming at quite the cost. We have a few ways that picking up the phone and making a call or meeting someone for coffee can go far in improving your communication and relationships.

You’ll avoid miscommunication. We’ve all been guilty of reading a text and drawing – often incorrect – conclusions about the person’s tone or intent. You can avoid a lot of hurt feelings, miscommunication and time wasted analyzing a text if you just have an actual conversation with someone.

There’s a clear ending. We’ve all been stuck in a text conversation that seems to go on forever when there’s really nothing left to say. If you meet face-to-face or make a phone call, it’s easier to read cues to know when the conversation is over.

Your conversations will be more thoughtful. Electronic communication really inhibits the ability to have a two-way conversation where you can freely share thoughts and ideas. Making a phone call allows you to expand upon ideas and emotions in a way that you just can’t via text.

You get to hear emotions in a person’s voice. Ever wonder if someone was actually laughing when she texted you “ROFL?” Wonder no more! Engaging in a conversation with someone allows you to hear a range of emotions – from excitement to anger – that can help steer the conversation and keep responses appropriate to the tone.

Everything will remain private. Remember, anything typed has the potential to live on forever. But unless your friend is secretly recording your conversations, there’s no proof that it ever happened. This should give you some peace of mind when you’re seeking advice or confiding in someone.

You get immediate responses. Waiting to hear back from someone after you texted him or her is really annoying. If you just pick up the phone and make a call, either you have the opportunity to leave a voicemail or you get the immediate gratification of talking to someone. Either way, you won’t spend days wondering if your crush ever actually got your text. (And the answer is always that yes, he did.)

marketing tips summer months

Summer is an awkward time to market to college students. They’re out of their usual routines of school and social time, instead spread out, traveling, under the watchful eyes of their parents, and focused on internships. For organizations that rely on the college-aged consumer, this can pose a bit of a challenge. How should you alter your marketing plan to ensure that you don’t lose too much ground once the masses flock back to campus? We have a few marketing tips to help you get through the next few months.

Take advantage of the “summer fun” mentality. For most people nationwide, summer is a precious time and the only opportunity for outdoor activities. People’s moods change and their more likely to try new things. Take advantage! Host summer-themed events and contests, and offer special “summer fun” discounts. Get creative! For example, if you own a restaurant or store, offer 10% off ice cream every time the temperature reaches 90 degree.

Get outside. It’s easy to draw people into your stores during colder months – but in the summer, it’s much harder. Rather than wait around for people to step inside, get outside! Hold things like sidewalk sales, get an intern to pass out flyers on a beach announcing your drink specials and do what you can to get your products outdoors.

Sponsor a kickball or softball team. Bring name and brand recognition out to local sports leagues. This will not only provide you with an opportunity for advertising, but foster goodwill and loyalty among the community. Offer post-games discounts, like two-for-one drinks or free appetizers.

Offer special summer prices. Summer isn’t high time for college students to buy computers and other school supplies, but if you offer prices that are enticing enough, they might decide to purchase early. Be clear that these are summer-only prices to provide consumers with a sense of urgency to buy. Parents of students – who tend to be more practical – might be likely to snap up items while they’re cheaper.

Do your research on community events. Communities around the country pack the summer months with athletic events, festivals and outdoor carnivals. Find out how you can be involved, whether it’s sponsoring an event or setting up a tent with samples from your restaurant. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to remind people that you’re around and use these events to advertise any upcoming sales, events, or promotions that you have planned.

Want to reach college students online? Bag those e-blasts.

email overload email marketing

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that teenagers and young adults today are glued to their phones. According to a study from Ball State University, nearly 100 percent of college students have mobile phones – and most of them use these devices to access the Internet. While students are using cell phones – rather than traditional computers – to access information at a continuously growing rate, they find advertising annoying, with 83 percent reporting that they are irritated when ads pop up. This poses a conundrum for advertisers trying to target college students – how do you reach this audience without ads?

What’s more, today’s college students aren’t into Facebook. While most of them admit having Facebook profiles, they more frequently turn to “simpler” forms of social media, like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. And in this turn toward social media as the preferred form of communication, many students have all but abandoned email; The New York Times recently reported that the average college kid only spends six minutes each day checking e-mail.

It’s important that marketers pay attention to these types of studies and stats – and evolve as necessary. For example, if you’re not seeing much movement with your promotional eblasts, it could be due to the very simple fact that college students aren’t checking email often and you’d be much better off with a QR code or other type of coupon delivery.

If you don’t have a mobile app for your organization, it’s certainly something that you might want to consider. Apps have proven an effective way to deliver coupons, keep customers up-to-date on news and even send and receive payments. College students today like to keep things simple – and the easier you can make it for them to gain information and get what they want, the better.

As for social media, keep in mind that your strategy for marketing to college students should be different than it is to other audiences. It’s unlikely that someone in the 35+ category is going to turn to Snapchat to find out news about your organization, but younger segments of the population just might. Don’t neglect certain apps because you don’t understand them – it’s critical to stay on the pulse of what’s new across different target markets and if you must, hire an outside consultant who can help you. It doesn’t make sense to spin your wheels and dedicate time to marketing on Facebook if your audience just isn’t there.

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