Friday Q&A: The Loyalty Program Using a Virtual Passport to Capture College Student Customers

Navigating a new college campus? Bar-Z hopes to ease that transition. The Austin firm pairs virtual campus tours with business promotions via an app, and employs a passport program to keep students returning to favorite campus haunts. The passport program is featured on college campuses from Seton Hall University in New Jersey to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California.

Lee Little, the company’s CEO, shared how Bar-Z works, and how using a loyalty program to reach college students can be a win for students, businesses, and campus communities.

How did Bar-Z get started?

I started Bar-Z 11 years ago as one person stuffing envelopes on a kitchen countertop in Austin, Texas. Now we are a team of 25 people. Austin was a great place to start the business because it is a city loaded with startups that also has a constant influx of smart college students, who are both eligible to be marketed to and also looking for employment. I’m a father of three and understand how hard it can be for students to find a college that matches [their needs], so this app is designed to help that process. We provide a multimedia experience [through videos of the campus and mapping features ] about a college that helps students answer the question, “Why would I want to go to this school?” And that helps them navigate the school once they decide to attend.

What kind of college students really benefit from your app?

Our app allows potential students to go on a virtual walking tour. Using our app, they can figure out how to find their room, or where the food options are on campus. This is especially great for new students who might be introverted or shy, or who might prefer to use an app over asking someone they don’t know these kinds of questions. You can think of our app as a supplement to the student ambassador programs of the past. Even better, you can use our app for a virtual guided tour at night or on weekends, when maybe student ambassadors aren’t available.

How have you all marketed your loyalty program to college communities?

Our loyalty program tracks consumers’ purchases. It can track units purchased or dollar volume purchased. This is designed to replace the printed loyalty cards. As students use our app, they will trigger location-specific content, like a video about the library, or the price of a nearby hotel room, or a promotion run by a local restaurant. This passport program allows businesses to encourage students to check in at multiple locations, and when they’ve completed a certain number of check-ins, they will get some kind of award — a free sandwich at a local deli, for example. By integrating these business promotions directly into the app’s campus guide, we are able to encourage students to frequent these local businesses, which is a win for both businesses and students.

Why Offer a Student Discount?

A student discount can nurture lifelong brand loyalty in a rising consumer group. Download this ebook to learn more.