Cornering the Student Market: Personalisation Must Win Out over Stereotypes

As brands think about targeting the student market, it would be very tempting to stereotype and develop marketing that is all about partying and watching daytime TV. This approach is doomed to fail because the student demographic is actually much more diverse and discerning. According to Creative Orchestra, less than 60% of students are under […]

As brands think about targeting the student market, it would be very tempting to stereotype and develop marketing that is all about partying and watching daytime TV. This approach is doomed to fail because the student demographic is actually much more diverse and discerning.

According to Creative Orchestra, less than 60% of students are under 21, almost 40% study part-time and half of those are aged 30-50. In the UK, there are almost half a million students from overseas, and the number is growing.

The main reason why banks are interested in connecting with students is that while they may not have much cash initially, over time they usually become more financially secure and interested in additional products and services such as credit cards, loans and mortgages.

 

Genuine concern for customers

Despite the dangers of generalising, there are some traits which marketers should be aware of. As a whole, students tend to have a strong sense of social responsibility. When asked, 74% believe that ethics are very important and 65% believe that it’s very important to be environmentally friendly. These beliefs affect the purchasing habits and demands of future students but it is important that brands don’t make claims they can’t substantiate. Students know the difference between genuine claims and spin and are increasingly drawn to ethical financial institutions.

Building a reputation as a brand that truly cares will get cut through with this demographic. Customer Thermometer research highlights that people want to connect with a brand that shows it cares about them. This is heightened for student consumers who are usually financially stretched and may feel more vulnerable, living away from home and making independent, financial decisions for the first time. Sensing that a bank understands the pressures they face and is always ready to help, rather than hinder or scold, can go a long way in forging a strong customer relationship.

In addition, our ‘Connected Customer’ research shows found that a long-term relationship happens when companies become a meaningful part of a customer’s everyday life.  Making their life easier and delivering what is promised both contribute to finding a place in their emotions. When students sense that “this company helps me when things go wrong”, they begin to move along the engagement journey from interest to loyalty. There’s a real opportunity for banks to show genuine understanding and flexibility towards students and as a result to win a customer for life.

As well as supporting students when things go wrong or finances are tight, banks should also be thinking, what additional services and products can we offer that will enhance their life? This is because there is a direct correlation between the number of additional products held, such as overdrafts, loans and insurance, and higher levels of engagement.

 

The personal touch

Finally, banks should use the reams of rich customer data, aggregated across multiple touch points, to target students with hyper-relevant and engaging messages at opportune moments.

Banks must profile and target properly, taking time to understand their audience, rather than lumping all students in the same category. Students will not tolerate being bombarded with unsolicited messages. Less is more and they appreciate creative, clever and entertaining campaigns that are personal to them. The good news is that sophisticated data-driven marketing is totally attainable now, so long as the data is clean.

The student market is highly lucrative and if banks get their marketing and customer experience right, they could win an advocate for life. To win the affections of students, brands must provide a meaningful and personalised solution with products and services that really add value. Any bank that does this will soon discover they have an army of loyal brand advocates who are engaged and bring long-lasting financial rewards.

 

Karen Wheeler is the Vice President and Country Manager UK at Affinion

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