Industry News | August 12, 2009

College-Student Discount Program Filters the Phonies

As colleges and universities open their campuses for the upcoming fall semester, one company is launching a discount program that harnesses the power of student shoppers for participating merchants.

Edhance Inc.'s new service allows college students to register their credit and debit cards and earn discounts from quick-serves and other merchants simply by being students. But while most student-discount companies can be duped by former students who have kept their student identification cards, Edhance's system is fool-proof.

"We've developed a lot of software to be able to verify whether or not a student is currently enrolled in a college or university," says Bjorn Larsen, president of Edhance. "We built it ... basically to offer that service to merchants who want to reach students but realize that it's also not easy to verify whether or not they are students."

Students sign up with the Edhance program either online or through one of the company's distribution partners (which include businesses and other financial providers with pre-existing student databases). They can register up to five cards, and are informed of deals at nearby businesses via e-mail.

Then, whenever they use their registered card at a participating merchant, Edhance is alerted of the transaction and automatically puts existing deals into effect. Deals can be specified based on geography, franchisee, time of year, loyalty, or any other way a merchant sees fit.

"The merchant chooses what kind of deal they want to sell," Larsen says. "Often they'll ask us for advice and we'll tell them what others are doing or what the industry is doing."

Edhance receives a flat commission from each sale; otherwise, merchants are not required any minimum or start-up fee for the service. Edhance also arranges with merchants to lower commission fees if the business signs up students on its own.

Larsen says the college student is the perfect demographic to provide a deal to because of their buying potential.

"Merchants have identified for many years that student discounts are good because students are sort of the up-and-coming shoppers who don't have enough money but you obviously want to focus on them because they have a full lifetime of shopping ahead of them," he says. "So you kind of want to bring them in the door."

The Edhance program is a great way for companies to promote during the back-to-school season, Larsen suggests, especially considering the quick growth he expects to see result from their financial partnerships.

"In October we're going to be the largest student-discount company in the world based on number of members," he says. "So it's pretty cool for a new company."

By Sam Oches

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