If Student Marketing, Inc. is meets its goals, many of your students will be carrying a smart card by the end of 2003. The privately-held company based in Melbourne, Florida is targeting your cardholders, hoping to make them their cardholders as well. Calling it the Student Crew, the company is issuing chip cards that enable merchant discounts and loyalty point accrual to students across the country.
Student Crew has qualities reminiscent of earlier discount networks such as Student Advantage and College Club. Its business model is much like that of the Varsity Books and Student Advantage, leveraging a crew of student representatives as an outside sales force. What it adds to the equation, is the accrual and redemption of points based on certain desired behaviors (e.g. eating at participating restaurants, buying certain items).
Student Crew began test marketing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando in August of 2002. Both students and merchants were reported to be receptive to the program. This preliminary trial resulted in 75 merchants and 700 cardholders. The company’s stated goal is to reach 27,000 merchants and 500,000 cardholders nationwide by the close of 2003.
A one-time $20.00 fee is charged to a cardholder for lifetime membership. The card is sent by mail and comes with initial bonuses such as a $50.00 travel voucher and starting balance of 1,000 Crew Reward points. The chip controls access to the account and holds points added at participating merchants via a smart card terminal. Student Marketing is purchasing the terminals from SCMicrosystems and Schlumberger. Additionally, a smart card reader can be installed on the cardholder’s personal computer. From the PC, electronic coupons can be downloaded to the card, purchases can be made at the Student Crew web site, and access to the members-only sections of the site can be gained.
What is the outlook for Student Crew? While the student market remains an attractive demographic, it has proven to be a difficult nut to crack. Many companies have tried and many have failed in an attempt to influence student behavior cross-campuses through membership-type programs. In most cases, these attempts have shown that the only affinity strong enough to influence purchasing behavior is that between the student and his or her chosen institution. That is why the institutional card programs tend to succeed where many well-funded corporations have failed.
The Student Crew card, if it delivers on its promised functionality, does add a new layer to the student membership model. A true card-based loyalty program has not been deployed in a large scale among college students. Time will tell if this will make the difference for Student Crew.