How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    5 higher education marketing approaches to attract Gen Z

    Gen Zs already accounts for about 25% of the population in the US and they’re just starting to have spending power. So what do Gen Z look for as consumers and, in our case, learners? This article highlights 5 marketing approaches and trends to attrat and nurture Gen z students.
    Last updated:
    December 3, 2021

    It’s nearly 2020 - can you believe it? We don’t know about you, but the Millennium only feels like yesterday. And smartphones; when did they sneak in?! As we look forward to the next ten years of innovation, we thought an article focusing on the generation who will “come of age” in it would be an appropriate way to mark the occasion. 

    Image by Photo by Alexis Brown.


    We’re talking about Gen Z, if you didn’t already know! 

    There’s debate over exact dates, but it’s widely accepted that Gen Zs were born between the mid 1990s and the mid 2000s. This digital-first group accounts for about 25% of the population in the US and they’re just starting to have spending power. So what do Gen Z look for as consumers and, in our case, learners?

    This was a hot topic at Web Summit 2019, and the focus point for the panelists who participated in a talk titled “Gen Z consumers - what do they want?” In it, four investors discuss what they’ve learned about Gen Z’s buying behaviours and motivations so far. 

    We’ve used insights from the talk to inspire our own list of marketing tricks and trends to keep in mind moving forward. You can watch the talk in its entirety here...


    1. Get the UX right 

    A good user experience is one that is meaningful and relevant to the user. To achieve it, designers and developers need to take into consideration all the practical and experiential elements of the product or service, from branding and design to usability and troubleshooting. 

    According to Tara Reeves of OMERS Ventures, there’s no room for error when it comes to UX design and Gen Z. “What struck me about Gen Z customers is that for them, UX is so, so important...they simply won’t put up with a poorly designed experience.”  

    So, when marketing to candidates, universities need to ensure the application process is seamless and that communications are clear and relevant. With a higher education CRM this is easy to do, but it’s much harder if you rely on spreadsheets to store information on candidates. 

    A CRM for higher education like FULL FABRIC enables universities to completely personalise the application process according to different candidates’ needs. Providing a hyper-relevant experience that is intuitive can help transform interested candidates into committed applicants.  

    2. Personalisation is key 


    “There’s so much interesting technology coming through in education; it’s so ripe for transformation…[young people] expect to have touchscreen devices that can understand what they like and don’t like and personalise the experience.”

    Rob Lowe from Lego Ventures.

    According to Lowe, education is an industry with a clear opportunity for technological transformation; there’s also an expectation from Gen Z consumers for something different. 

    When marketing to the Gen Z group, it’s important to experiment with new and emerging platforms; technologies that push boundaries and provide a truly personalised experience. 

    In the context of higher education admissions, it’s important to utilise personalisation to identify, for example, what stage of the application a candidate is at so that you communicate with them in a relevant way. Similarly, you need to form an understanding of what they’re interested in and what motivates them early on for the same reason. 

    It’s also important to showcase technological innovation in your institution. Highlight the ways in which different subjects are using technology for learning inside and outside of the classroom, as well as interesting new technologies you're developing. 

    Earlier this year, we wrote about the universities adopting immersive technologies to transform the way they deliver course content. Feed stories like these into your own marketing campaigns to show the world you’re at the forefront of teaching and innovation.

    3. Create offline experiences

    Although Gen Z grew up with smart technology and social media, they still value offline interaction. Karen McCormick, Chief Investment Officer for Beringea, explains that younger people tend to see their digital and “real” lives as separate entities. She explains that there’s still a market for non-tech products for this reason. 

    “We have an investment in a luxury stationery business...the business is absolutely flying because there’s this idea of, ‘I want to go back to something beautiful offline if it’s not part of my specific digital life’,” she explains. 

    Reeves supports this by citing the rising popularity of co-living and co-working among the Gen Z population. “Whether it’s women in communities like The Wing, whether it’s co-living communities or whether it’s co-working spaces. People are making the choice to do that.”

    With this in mind, it’s well worth creating events for candidates to experience life on campus as well as factoring in campus life into your communications . Most of us, Gen Z or otherwise, want to feel part of a community. Showcase the societies students can get involved in and promote events that enable students to meet their peers face-to-face. 

    4. It's all about balance

    This is an interesting topic and one worth thinking about when approaching your marketing strategy. Avi Eyal Managing Partner of Entree Capital, explains that Gen Z don’t typically form an opinion “based on in-depth research that generations before it did”, but rather they’re influenced by “30-second soundbites”. 

    As a result, audiences often only get one side of a story. Marketers should think of ways to engage people in a way that’s quick and digital while providing a balanced view. Think about how you could play a part in combating divisiveness. Including a diverse range of voices and experiences in promotional material could be a good way of doing this.

    In this video, three students share their experiences at City University London.


    5. Authenticity is everything


    “Millennial and Gen Zs recognise celebrity [endorsements] for what it is: people who are paid to be doing these things, and who may or may not relate to their lives. So it’s still impactful, but it’s certainly transparent,” explains McCormick who believes influencers are more “influential” than celebrities when it comes to promoting things, as long as they are charismatic and genuinely good at what they do.  

    So instead of a celebrity endorsement, consider partnering with an influencer. This could be an alumni who’s gone on to be very successful in their field, an academic who’s working on something groundbreaking or maybe a current student with a strong social presence, such as a vlogger. A search for “university experience” on YouTube will bring up numerous examples.

    Whatever marketing approach you take, FULL FABRIC can help you streamline how you deliver content and nurture relationships with your students across the entire student lifecycle. Request a demo today to see how it works.


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    Kate Tattersfield

    Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.

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