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College Merchant Challenges Campus-area Merchants – We Feel Your Pain, and Are Here to Help!

In college towns across the country, campus-area merchants face unique challenges that we at FlockTAG have seen time and again. Let’s face it – the coffee shop just off the quad operates in a very different world than does the Starbucks out in the suburbs. We get it. As customers, students are tech-savvy, impulsive, price sensitive and quality-minded. They appear and disappear all at once according to the school calendar. For them, the shopping season comes every time there’s a big game or an exam study jam session, not just once a year at Christmas.

Collectively, the nation’s 21.6 million college students spent an estimated $163 billion on discretionary purchases last year. That’s a big and constantly moving target. Naturally, campus-area merchants are always seeking new ways to engage quickly with college students, so they can attract, retain and maximize revenues from them. Our FlockTAG team recognizes that these businesses face constant challenges in connecting with their customers across multiple technologies and staying one step ahead of the competition.

Brent Hegwood, the general manager of BTB Burrito, BTB Cantina and Good Time Charley's, located near the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, tells us: "The college market is unique and constantly evolving. The challenge is keeping up with the new technology platforms students are using that offer the potential for reaching them. This is something that gets pushed to the wayside, because I have other more-pressing things to do."

Mario Fitros, the owner of Brenen's Café, across from the Ohio State University campus in Columbus, says his business faces mounting competition from the university: “The new student union has its own restaurants, and the university requires freshmen to sign up for meal plans in the dorms. With tuition being so expensive, sophomores often roll their dorm meal plans in with their student loans. These changes have had a dramatic effect on our business."

Our team has built FlockTAG to address these challenges. For example, we provide merchants with access to our entire FlockTAG network of vendors, so they can broaden their customer base, cross-market their products and attract more college students to their store locations. We also help them drive engagement and increase overall purchases by offering students individually targeted, well-timed, high-value deals that don’t cannibalize sales.

Steve Sawvel, the owner of Grand River Coffee in East Lansing, home to Michigan State University, explains: "FlockTAG enables us to send out a prepaid deal that brings people in the door. This gives us an opportunity to showcase what we offer and to bring customers back several times. It’s a more effective way to advertise than mailing out coupons."

Since college student preferences and technologies change quickly, our FlockTAG team keeps up with emerging trends, so merchants don’t have to. Deals are sent via sms text message, push notification and email, and our user-friendly loyalty rewards program has an electronic format that appeals to students.

"FlockTAG has been pretty effective, and we see it in our numbers for usage and repeat customers," says Mario, of Brenen's. Every time we do a new deal, we get a little spike in business. Customers who haven't been in for a while do come back." Steve, of Grand River Coffee, says: "A lot of our customers like the electronic format available for the FlockTAG loyalty rewards system. Plus, it’s easy to use."

To date, FlockTAG has earned high marks from our clients, and our team remains committed to meeting their needs and expectations.

Brent, of BTB Burrito, says: "FlockTAG is our primary loyalty rewards program, and we've found it has been successful." Steve, of Grand River Coffee, reports FlockTAG has helped him build his business and bolster his bottom line profits in a highly competitive landscape: "I think we've seen upticks from FlockTAG. After we started using it, our business sales did increase." Mario, of Brenen's, indicates he too has been pleased with the overall results: "FlockTAG's system works, and I have recommended it to other friends in the market."

Our entire team at FlockTAG appreciates the opportunity to serve campus-area merchants. My own experiences owning and operating campus area drink shops give me great respect for the challenges our merchant friends face. We would love to help you win and keep the business of the students you serve. Thanks!