College Students’ Purchase Influencers and Favorite “Splurge” Categories

August 29, 2014

Fluent-Undergrad-Back-to-School-Purchase-Influencers-Aug2014Undergraduate students are less likely to rely on brand advertising than word-of-mouth when it comes to their purchase decisions, finds a new survey from Fluent. The study, fielded among more than 1,400 undergraduate students, also finds that online coupons have a significant effect on back-to-school shopping decisions. And for all the popularity of visual-sharing social media, these channels don’t have much of a stated influence.

Asked how much a variety of factors influence their purchasing decisions when shopping for back-to-school, respondents were most likely to cite:

  • Friends’ recommendations, one-to-one (very or somewhat influential for roughly 94% of respondents);
  • Online coupons / sales deals (influential for 92%);
  • Mobile coupons / sales deals (influential for 84%);
  • General word-of-mouth around campus (influential for 83%); and
  • Friends’ recommendations, via social media (influential for 82%).

By comparison, fewer attributed influence to online product demos (55%), Pinterest or other visual-sharing social channels (58%) or magazine articles and editorials (58%). Brand advertising emerged as a middle-of-the-road influence, cited by close to 7 in 10 respondents. (See here for the types of ads that college students are most likely to pay attention to.)

The strong pull of deals may well be related to students’ increased cost-consciousness: almost half said they’re definitely more cost-conscious than they were last year, and an additional 31% said they’re somewhat more cost-conscious.

But when they do splurge, it’s highly likely to be on clothing: 72% indicated clothing to be one of their 3 favorite categories to “splurge” on. That was far ahead of others such as interior decorations (30%), computers/software (29%) and mobile technology (25%).

About the Data: The Fluent survey was conducted August 13-21, 2014, among 1,420 undergraduate college students across the US, of which almost two-thirds are female. Roughly 6 in 10 are incoming juniors or seniors.


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