How to Sell Higher Education to Generation Z?

Andy Holland

Coronavirus has impacted…well. Pretty much everything.  For Generation Z, though, the curse of COVID-19 was particularly disorientating. Thwarted exams, lessons, gap years, graduations, and end-of-year celebrations were just a few of the sacrifices that had to be made. For Gen Z, the  “new normal”  meant having life milestones cancelled or indefinitely postponed. 

As the country eases back to normality, Gen Zs are at risk of being hit the hardest by the financial fallout from coronavirus. To kick-start the economy, the country is in desperate need of the right skills and minds to inject it with the boost it needs. 

Higher education institutions must respond to this rallying cry. A strong and purposeful online presence is essential in attracting Generation Z students as they make their first tentative steps into a post-covid world. 

First off – who are Generation Z?

Generation Zs are generally defined as being born between the mid-90s and the mid-2010s. A generation of digital natives, this tech-savvy bunch live and breathe social media. To them, the internet is not just a necessary tool but something that should be used with intention. They are adept at filtering out online content that they don’t deem to be captivating, authentic or useful. With an average online attention span of eight seconds, Gen Zs favour easily-digestible content, such as short videos, sound-bites and visuals. 

As a generation raised amidst recessions and a 24/7 online news cycle, Gen Zs have an acute awareness of unprecedented events on a global scale. As such, they have a frugal mindset and crave stability and control. 

To put it frankly, if a website isn’t designed with the motivations and behaviours of Gen Z in mind, you may as well be sending carrier pigeons out into the ether. To effectively communicate with this discerning audience, you need to create an online experience that fulfils their needs. Thankfully, thoughtful website design and development is a powerful way to achieve this. 

FUNCTIONALITY  

When was the last time you checked your website? Do you know the loading speed? Optimised for mobile? Or, do you need a magnifying glass to read it? 

Website functionality is one of the most important things to get right. Generation Zs value convenience and efficiency, so a slick User Experience (UX) is essential. As a demographic that uses smartphones more than any other generation, you can say goodbye to your target audience if your website can’t be read or navigated properly on mobile. The same goes for your website’s loading speed – if your homepage may as well have its own hold music whilst it loads, your Gen Z reader will click ‘X’ without hesitation. 

Does your website require a load screen? Rather than a spinning wheel, why not have an engaging “buffering” experience whilst your reader waits for the content to load. From splash screens to animations, it’s a great way to ‘pre-communicate’ your messages in a creative way and hold the reader’s attention.

It is not enough for your website to look the part – it must perform like a dream too. 

DESIGN 

You’re trying to engage a demographic which favours visual, short-form content, including the likes of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Is your website laden with long, rambling paragraphs? Does it use a dismal, uninspiring colour palette? You’ve lost the attention of several potential students. 

Generation Zs are seeking instant gratification when it comes to online content. Striking visuals. Bold colours. Videos. GIFS. Animation. Design that literally jumps out from the page and instantly commands attention. You need to combine visually appealing content with a totally seamless experience in order to encourage the Gen Z reader to go beyond the homepage and explore your course programmes. 

AUTHENTICITY 

Authenticity doesn’t mean mimicking your target audience – it means being open, friendly and transparent. Likewise, a robotic marketing approach will not work in your favour for this demographic – they want to see genuine experiences. As mentioned earlier, Gen Zs desire stability and control – they need to know the value you can bring to their higher education journey. 

How do you do this? Visual storytelling. Why not go beyond the standard student testimonials and let them see what it’s like to study at your institution. A short ‘day in the life’ vlog from a student would give them a fantastic insight into the facilities and culture of your institution and is a great way to showcase what you do. 

Needless to say, having a social media presence is crucial in our digital age. As Gen Zs are particularly receptive to social media content, the likes of an Instagram or Twitter carousel on your homepage is a great way to encourage them to click ‘follow’ and get more of a feel of what their experience would be like.

Generation Z are here to shape the world around us and it’s critical that this up and coming consumer base is catered for properly online. The best way to grab a Gen Z-er’s attention is by impressing them with a slick, innovative and personal online experience that is better than the rest. 

If you have any questions about improving your higher education website, get in touch and we’d be happy to help.