When you participate in college tours like I did for the better part of this weekend, there’s a lot to take in and even more to remember. Without notes and the collateral they give you some important details can become blurry by the time you get home. However, what I heard often on tour (and didn’t forget) was how many colleges have embraced loyalty programs as a platform to drive engagement with their student body and ignite commercial activity within the community that surrounds their campus. More and more universities are launching loyalty programs that encourage students to use their ID cards beyond the dorm and dining hall. Campus ID cards are already the key to so many functions on campuses. Adding it to a digital wallet opens the door to tap-to-pay for things like printing, parking, laundry and more.
The benefits of a college loyalty programs are not that different from most consumer platforms. Schools are looking to expand card usage/application and promote campus activities and events. They want to build better relationships with local merchants by allowing them to provide incentives they know will work and can be measured. And most importantly, they want to enrich the student experience with innovation making participation fun, rewarding, and convenient. Getting students engaged begins on day one, often with downloading an app.
When freshmen come to campus for the first time in the fall, they are looking for ways to connect with their new school -- their new home. This is the prime opportunity to bring them into the loyalty and rewards program with push notifications. At the welcome week events, schools walk them through the entire process of downloading the app and earning prizes. They explain how the app will help them and how push notifications will add value and not just annoy them. For more and more schools this is not just working. It’s entirely changed the student experience. Here are two great examples of loyalty at work on a college campus:
LoboPerks, is named after the University of New Mexico’s wolf mascot. The program serves over 30,000 students and provides discounts to over 100 Albuquerque merchants, including restaurants, beauty salons, cell phones providers, computers shops, furniture rentals and fitness facilities. The discounts student members can earn are often hefty, including half-off deposits at apartment complexes or a $100 discount on used car. The loyalty program also serves faculty, staff and employees of the university hospital.
The LoboPerks Web site lists all participating merchants, and students only need to present the Lobo Card to take advantage of the discounts. The program includes a weekly email, an online ‘spotlight’ vendor of the week and a list to let students know of new vendors or changing discounts.
Crimson Spirit Point
Instead of going with a discount program, the University of Alabama rolled out Crimson Spirit Loyalty Points, a system similar to airline miles. The school was looking for a way to encourage students to participate in events that are more academic in nature rather than athletic or social (plays, academically oriented events, low attendance sporting events). When students attend an event, they simply swipe their ID and there’s an online portal where they can view their point total and discover what prizes their points can be redeemed for. Prizes include rewards such as $100 scholarships that can be used to purchase books and related equipment.
What began for these schools as a tool to promotes engagement has evolved to be so much more. This generation of students are no longer just early adopters of new technology, they expect it. Their on-campus experience should mirror that which they are accustomed to outside of their school. The ability to store payment cards, ID cards and loyalty programs within digital wallets is an expectation, not a luxury. Given the fact that the fastest acquisition growth in loyalty today happens within the 13- to 25-year-old demographic, colleges and universities that want to remain in step with their student body need to better embrace loyalty as a solution. When major brands learn how many pain points loyalty is solving for these collegial communities, they too will embrace what we at Kognitiv call “Loyalty Plus”, and through technology expand their capabilities in ways they never thought possible. That kind of innovation always earns an “A”, on campus and off.