The unprecedented nature of the pandemic has written a new future for marketing. In this era of social distancing, masks, and at-home offices, businesses have been forced to navigate through new strategies and essentially pivot. Marketers have been figuring out ways to reach their target audiences, especially to new consumers like college students. This tech-savvy group consists of young adults living on their own for the very first time and developing their own purchasing behaviors and patterns. While many brands have used on-campus events to their advantage, the pandemic has limited and sometimes even completely removed that plan for them. But, there are a variety of ways to maneuver and strategize when marketing to college students during the “new normal.”
Reinvent your Social Media Strategy
In this digital era, it is extremely important to have a social media presence, especially when marketing toward a generation that grew up using technology. While most brands have an established following and user-generated content to support, it is crucial to revisit the social media strategy to adhere to the present climate. According to US Census Bureau Data, e-commerce sales jumped nearly 32% in 2020 compared to the prior year. This means that brands are focusing and relying on the social media sphere to bring in sales. Sprout Social states that, “Social commerce is the buying and selling of goods or services directly within a social media platform. This model moves social media beyond its traditional role in the discovery process by encouraging users to complete the entire purchase process without leaving their preferred apps.” It is no longer “enough” to have a social media channel present for college students, but to meet and convert them where they are.
Utilize Influencers to Boost Authenticy
Any marketing specialist can attest to the power of influencers. They are the experts, the trendsetters, and even the driving force behind many businesses. While many brands see them as an opportunity to drive digital purchase decisions, there are many other reasons to partner with these content creators. One of them is that influencers can bring authenticity to your marketing campaign. Through the use of popular trends such as short form video content, influencers bring life to your business by placing your product or business in a relatable context. This serves as a method for college students to get to know you without physically meeting you on their campus. Also, consider working with influencers who are enrolled in a college or university. They are on campus and can connect to the audience on a completely different level.
Establish and Build a Connection
College students are an interesting audience because they are newly independent and slowly developing their own consumer patterns. It is important to establish and continuously build a solid relationship with them. Social media is great for establishing that foundation, but what about a deeper, meaningful connection? As a business who has had a physical presence on multiple campuses, it was vital to speak to the students, show them who we are, and explain how they could get involved with us. During the pandemic, it can be quite challenging to solely utilize social media because you are essentially competing with other brands on a feed that already has a lot of information. This is why it is vital to build a community through online events, newsletters, virtual contests, etc. For instance, toward the end of 2020, we partnered with brands such as Creme of Nature, Lottabody, etc for a virtual Homecoming College Tour. There were huge giveaways, contests, and we have a ____% increase in email newsletter sign-ups. Now, students know that Impressions of Beauty offers so much to their college experience.
Incorporate Direct Mail Marketing
Direct mail marketing may seem a bit outdated, but it works for the new normal. This is a huge opportunity to show that there is a human behind the business and the phone screen. In fact, according to a Forbes article, 57% of respondents mentioned that postcard marketing made them feel more valued and created a more authentic relationship. This is also the chance for you to get creative with the college market. College students love free items, so why not send them something that they will love? You can also send “thank you” cards for attending your virtual events or even send them coupons for textbook rental websites.
We will not be reverting to the “old normal” anytime soon. It is important to reimagine and construct your marketing strategy toward the college market.