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College Students Adopt Mobile across the Board

Nine in 10 college students to own a smartphone by 2016

NEW YORK, NY (August 28, 2012)—A new eMarketer report finds that by the time the class of 2016 graduates, close to 90% of college students in the US will own a smartphone. Brands who reach this digitally savvy audience have the opportunity to mold mobile shopping behaviors—and in the short term, the chance to gain a share of students’ increased spending.

The new report, “College Students Put Mobile Marketers to the Test,” analyzes findings from dozens of third-party research providers and interviews with industry executives, answering key questions about how brands can best reach these mobile-centric students, including:

  • What percentage of college students own smartphones and tablets?
  • What type of digital content do they access?
  • How is mobile advertising perceived?
  • How are college students using mobile devices for shopping?

By years’ end nearly 70% of college mobile phone users will own smartphones. Despite the already high penetration levels of smartphone ownership among college students, eMarketer forecasts double-digit growth among the college set through 2015. By the end of 2016, eMarketer estimates nine out of 10 undergraduate students of all ages and enrollment types will own a smartphone, compared with 58.5% of the total US population.

The rate at which college students are buying tablets is surpassing that of smartphones: triple the number of backpacks were filled with tablets in January 2012 compared to the prior March. According to The Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of testing company Pearson Education, 25% of US college students owned a tablet in January 2012, compared to 7% just 10 months earlier.

Marketers looking to reach this constantly connected audience need to hone their mobile efforts in order to be effective.

“Undergraduates are aware of and responsive to mobile ads. However, they’re quick to judge and are easily turned off by messages that are interruptive or irrelevant,” said eMarketer. “Marketers that push creative boundaries, deliver content that is fun to share and diversify the types of mobile ads used, will have the best odds of increasing engagement levels and brand perception among the college set.”

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Media Contact:
Clark Fredricksen
Vice President, Communications, eMarketer
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Posted on August 28, 2012.