Student’s online spending habits


There have been several reports into student’s online spending habits over the past few years. In this post we’re going to share the combined findings of those reports with you.

Also in recognition that the most recent significant study was published in 2007 and based upon a US student sample we’re announcing that this summer 2010 The Student Room will be conducting a UK student spending survey that brings marketers bang up to date with student spending habits on and offline.

Combined report findings:

  • College students spend more money online than any other demographic group – According to a report by O’Donnell and Associates, LL (2004),
  • Students are particularly active and heavy internet users and that technology and the media have become a significant part of this young consumer group’s lifestyle. Therefore it is important for retailers to better understand college students’ online shopping behaviours in order to learn how to market effectively to them – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • Top online clothing shopping personas (ways of grouping shoppers based on their behaviour and attitudes) for students – Seock and Bailey, (2007):


  1. confident shopper
  2. Price conscious
  3. Shopping is FUN
  4. brand/store loyal
  5. brand/fashion conscious
  6. convenience is important
  7. likes doing it at home


  1. confident shopper
  2. Price conscious
  3. brand/store loyal
  4. convenience is important
  5. brand/fashion conscious
  6. Shopping is FUN
  7. likes doing it at home
  • Clothing is one of the most popular Internet shopping categories for students, of whom about 25% have purchased clothing online – Case and King (2003)
  • Consumer’s need for social interaction while shopping negatively affected the propensity to engage in Internet Shopping – Swaminathan et al. (1999)
  • both male and female students are confident and price aware when shopping online – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • 89% of respondents had searched for information about apparel products online in the previous 12 months and 66.1% had purchased apparel items online during the same period – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • fashion/brand conscious students will browse and research the latest styles and new fashion trends before they purchase those items online – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • In order to attract and retain customers that are brand/fashion conscious e-tailors should develop web sites that feature the most current trends, allow viewers to preview apparel on simulated body forms and with zoom features – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • e-tailors should invest in marketing online to lets customers know they exist and as applicable post information about the availability of new products – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • Apparel e-tailors’ websites should incorporate entertainment features such as music, interactive networking communities for sustomers, and user generated content like customer-written reviews to attract consumers who look to get enjoyment out of shopping online. – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • Cost was the second biggest factor for male and female students and etailers should provide competitive low prices or frequently offer promotional deals on apparel items in order to attract cost conscious shoppers.- Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • Shipping and handling fees may be a critical barrier of online shopping for students whose primary concern is price.
  • Female students tend to seek hedonistic benefits, such as excitement, in their shopping activities. They are also brand and fashion savvy and may be sensitive to product price – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • Consumers experience a variety of hedonistic needs while shopping, such as the need for fun. Entertainment aspects of shopping should be included in the development of apparel companies’ marketing strategies to target and attract the female student consumer group – Hausman (2000)
  • Male participants showed higher convenience/time consciousness than females. To attract male student shoppers efficient shopping environments should be provided – Seock and Bailey, (2007)
  • In the 12 months before the research female participants conducted a greater number of online information searches and had a greater number of purchase experiences for apparel products than males- Seock and Bailey, (2007)

The above shows how important a consumer group students are (the biggest spenders online) and makes some recommendations for how marketers should be reaching them. It also shows how shopping choices are significantly related to their searches for product information. The Student Room plays a big part in that research and decision making process, especially for higher value products and services.

Some of these reports were conducted before social media really took off so for the ‘hedonistic’ shoppers who want to be entertained by the experience it will be interesting when we conduct our research to look at how online shoppers are now sharing recommendations.

On The Student Room we certainly see how important socialising is in informing purchasing decisions. This can be seen in any of our forums below where students are looking for recommendations for everything from haircare products to laptops:

Hair care and hair styles

Clothes and accessories




Food and drink

Laptops and netbooks

Mobile phones

Photography equipment

Bank accounts and credit cards

We’ve pulled out the best stuff but should you want to read the full journal report upon which this post is based its available from Wiley.

  • Yingbo

    This is perfect research. I tend to cite your research for my dissertation, would you please email me the references included this article, such as Seock and Bailey, (2007), this would be significant valuable for my research. Thank you! Best Regards! Yingbo

  • Shivang

    Hi there, this truly is really good work and very useful for my dissertation aswell. Can you please send me your list of references, especially Seock and Bailey (2007). Same request as the other guy. Thanks a lot! :)

  • Will

    If anybody is still looking for the relevant reference I think it is:

    Seock, Y. & Bailey, L. (2008) ‘The influence of college students’ shopping orientations and gender differences on online information searches and purchase behaviours’, International Journal of Consumer Studies, 31(1), pp.113-121