Student discount site Unidays is hoping to corner the Gen Z data market. The digital identity verification platform has experienced rapid growth since “solving a small problem” for brands – verifying and connecting them to students. The next step is taking on Facebook.
“There are 150 million university students around the world and it’s an incredible audience,” said Unidays founder and CEO Josh Rathour.
“There’s an incredibly valuable audience here of consumers who are becoming independent for the first time and making some of the big decisions of their lives.”
Which-50 spoke to the Unidays CEO on a recent visit to Australia about how his platform connects brands with Gen Zs and the subsequent dataset they are amassing.
“Unidays is building the world’s biggest data set of Gen Z consumption, interest, intent and behaviour across 115 different countries,” he told Which-50. The range of countries the data comes from is unmatched by today’s tech giants, according to Rathour.
When pushed on the claim of exceeding Facebook data, Rathour clarified the data set relates to “specifically verified information for students”.
While that may seem a concession of sorts, Rathour argues that specification is actually a great strength. Explicit verification removes attribution risk “where you’re paying dollars to reach somebody and they’re not the customer you wanted”.
Instead the Unidays platform will eventually be able offer brands more verifiable targeting of Gen Z consumers than any other platform, including Facebook, Rathour said.
Reaching Gen Z
Unidays has doubled its global footprint in the last six months to 115 countries and now has 8.5 million students on its platform, giving them access to promotions from brands like Apple, Microsoft and The Iconic.
Rathour says the growth comes from Unidays initial vision to focus on a single small problem – student verification. Solving that problem alleviates the friction for both brands and students. Brands get an engaged consumer and a seamless experience while students can take advantage of discounts and promotions.
Solving that problem quickly unlocks a large new market of Gen Z students for businesses, giving brands access to consumers during their formative years, according to Rathour. It’s essentially a head start for marketers to develop customer relationships.
“That moment when their eyes just light up when they say ‘I never thought about [students], we just though it was a tiny subset of our audience’. And we say hey, this could be a huge part of your customer base in the future,” Rathour said.
However it’s particularly important the messaging is on point. Gen-Z consumers have exceptionally high digital standards, fostered from a lifetime of digital experiences. They expect authenticity from companies and are more than willing to “challenge the credibility of brands,” Rathour said.
Bottom line, when you get the message wrong Gen Z rarely tolerates it. Just ask Pepsi and its attempt to tap into the spirit of revolution.
Even for small problems, Rathour says, when you offer a quality product word spreads quickly. The company is the fastest growing SME for international sales, according to The Sunday Times, with a 300 per cent growth in international sales over two years.
Managing Hyper Growth
The early success has given Unidays a new problem, albeit one most companies would like to have – hyper growth.
“It’s a fantastic place to be. There aren’t many companies in the world that are having these problems with scaling a consumer internet platform.”
Nevertheless it is problematic at times and exponential growth produces “inevitable walls”. Unidays has hit the wall many times and has had to refactor its approach, Rathour said.
“Every time we do that we see the [growth] line go up again.”
The on the fly refactoring is enabled by a strong culture including “the values to thrive in that kind of environment”, Rathour said.
“At Unidays we’ve really thrived and been able to grow at this incredible rate because we’ve had this kind of core culture through the business and folks who have grown with the business and are now in very different roles that what they were at the beginning.”
Rathour recommends hiring people who can maintain and contribute to a strategic vision. While the Unidays CEO can’t monitor every decision his team makes, he take solace in the culture his company has created and trusts his team to make the right decision.