IAB and The Student Room collaborate to further understand students’ online usage behaviour

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the world’s largest student site, The Student Room has carried out research looking at how students are spending their time online. The research addresses a number of key areas, such as how they browse, their preferred e-commerce sites as well as what influences and helps with their purchasing decisions on a day to day basis.

The study (of over 1000 students) indicates that despite difficult financial times they are willing to embrace paid for content with over a third having paid for some form of online content, such as apps and online gaming credits. The research shows that students are fully equipped with the latest technology with significantly more saying they own laptops (80%) than TV’s (57%), 50% are spending a proportion of their time accessing the internet via their smartphones. When asked this rose to three quarters who claimed that they will be accessing the internet via a smartphone handset in the next 2 years’.

The study highlights that nearly 40% of students questioned are spending between 3-4 hours per day online; the majority being on social network sites. Research showed that almost a third are following brands on social sites with the likes of River Island, New look and Adidas being in the top ten mentioned, in some cases specifically for discounts (35.2%) and exclusive content (29.5%) with over two thirds contributing to existing content on friends walls, pages and statuses.

Offline face to face word of mouth (WOM) remains the highest method of referral (71%) when it comes to finding out about the latest products and services on the market however online ads, communities and social network sites still play a large part with nearly 40% finding out about new products via friends on social networking sites and 37% from other social media like online communities. Research also showed that students are spending nearly as much of their time socialising online (17% on average) as they are in real life (18% on average).

The study also proved that friends and ‘like minded’ peers on community sites are the favoured and most trusted source of opinion when researching large purchases online amongst students as well as (over 70%) feeling that product review sites are the most helpful type of source when making purchasing decisions.

Sorcha Proctor, Insights Manager, IAB said:
‘Students are using their laptops as their number one platform for everything they do. It’s fascinating to see that they are spending as much of their free time socialising and communicating on social network sites as they are spending with their offline friends. The research shows that online is a great platform for communicating to students as they do spend so much of their time in this space and are so social with it.’

Jamie O’Connell, Marketing Director, The Student Room said:
“It’s not surprising that established ‘real world’ friends would be a powerful source of word of mouth, what stands out here is that, when making a purchasing decision, the help from online ‘like minded’ peers on community sites like The Student Room is greater than ‘real world friends’ on social networking sites. This demonstrates the level of trust that can develop on community sites, a powerful motivating force that brands should look to tap into.”

Other findings:

  • Marginally more had smartphones (43%) than radios (42%)
  • Almost as many watch TV daily on their laptops as on a communal television set
  • 29.1% spend five to six hours online each day

The research was carried out across 3 weeks at the beginning of 2011, amongst users of The Student Room website. Through natural fallout the sample was largely made up of 16-19 year old students who were taking A Level’s or studying for a degree.

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