Office Depot rewards students for mobile time-outs

Discussion
Source: Pocket Points
Sep 14, 2016

Office Depot has signed on as the sole national school and office supply retailer with Pocket Points, an app that offers savings to students who refrain from using their mobile phones during class.

When students open the app on campus and lock their phones, they start earning points that can be redeemed directly through the app or via their web browser to save money on school and dorm supplies at officedepot.com. Office Depot doesn’t sell mobile devices, but offers a number of related accessories and a range of school supplies.

“Office Depot’s exclusive partnership with Pocket Points furthers our commitment to finding new and innovative ways to help students utilize technology to succeed in the classroom,” said Diane Nick, SVP of marketing for Office Depot, in a statement. “This is a win-win for users of the app and our company to reach students on this popular platform. In addition to helping students maintain good classroom habits throughout the year, Office Depot wants to provide them with access to savings on the gear they need to succeed.”

Pocket Points’ founders, two former college students, launched the app in the fall of 2014 after noticing their fellow students constantly looking at their phones during class. A press release pointed to a 2013 University of Nebraska-Lincoln study that showed college students spend 20 percent of class time using digital devices for unrelated activities.

Working with more than 100 universities and colleges nationwide, the app largely offers food-related rewards such as Smoothie King, Papa John’s, Denny’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Office Depot appears to be the only non-food related retailer in the program.

Pocket Points isn’t the only app offering rewards tied to influencing behavior. Walgreen’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sears are among those offering discounts and other rewards for reaching fitness and health goals. Küdzoo is an app that that provides gift cards, discounts at restaurants and stores and other rewards to students for good grades and school attendance.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How effective are apps that seek to influence behavior by offering brand or retail rewards? Do the Pocket Points incentives make sense for Office Depot?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The need-oriented rewards offered by the app are so tangible that they will trump the abstract reward center stimulation of mobile engagement."
"After being a guest speaker at a university more than once … this is a long overdue program."
"Good luck getting college students to turn off their phones."

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7 Comments on "Office Depot rewards students for mobile time-outs"


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Tom Redd
Guest

After being a guest speaker at a university more than once … this is a long overdue program. I do hope that more retailers and food people support this. Amazing to see how many kids are on their PC or on mobile when you are trying to help them with their careers (and one of them sleeping). They will end up in telemarketing. I know many professors that ask kids to leave class if they use their phones. That is smart, too …

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

To Tom’s comment: I tell my students they are permitted to use their phones during class. They are adults and can make a decision about what is most important. They don’t even have to ask. All they have to do is quietly get up and leave the room and come back when they are finished. In the end, very few do that.

Max Goldberg
Guest

Good luck getting college students to turn off their phones. Joining Pocket Points might bring Office Depot some positive PR, but it’s not going to increase its sales.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust
Jasmine Glasheen
Content Marketing Manager, Surefront
5 years 11 months ago

This reminds me of the HumanaVitality app, which rewards subscribers for joining sports leagues, getting dental check-ups and other daily health activities. By logging their healthy activities, users gain points that go towards Amazon gift cards or other perks. Does it help keep subscribers on the fitness track?

Depending on the personality of the customer, rewards can be incredibly effective at influencing behavior. Especially among reward-oriented Millennials. Pocket Points will appeal to their intended college market. Texting and online games trigger reward centers in the brain that in-person classes have had difficulty competing with. The basic need-oriented rewards offered by the app are so tangible that they will trump the abstract psychological reward center stimulation of mobile engagement.

Lee Kent
Guest

I’m not sure I would agree that this is influencing behavior. This is a pretty easy thing for them to do for some rewards. Many students at the college level are actually serious about their studies and won’t be on their cell phones anyway.

The positive side for Office Depot is that this app helps to make a brand connection with the students and connections go a long way with this generation. The bigger question will be if Office Depot can deliver something the students will want and need. How many reams of paper does one student need over the course of a year, for example?

For my 2 cents.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Contributing Editor, RetailWire; Founder and CEO, Vision First
5 years 11 months ago

As long as the incentives are relevant and valuable, people will conform to the terms. While it’s a great PR move, it remains to be seen if Office Depot will generate tangible value from this program.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I applaud Office Depot for finding a way to connect with students, who will hopefully be long-term customers well after they graduate university. It doesn’t matter if it gets students to turn off their phones or not, it has won them some positive publicity.

After reading the comments from some of my fellow BrainTrust colleagues, here is an additional comment. As far as turning off the phone during class or for any other type of presentation, here are my thoughts. I am a professional speaker. If I’m not holding the attention of an audience member, then I’m not doing my job. And, I like when they tweet about the presentation. Now, if they are rude, making noise or disturbing others with their activity, that is another story. That behavior is unacceptable. If the audience is college students, I assume they are adult enough to make their own decisions about their level of attention. Again, just don’t be disruptive.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The need-oriented rewards offered by the app are so tangible that they will trump the abstract reward center stimulation of mobile engagement."
"After being a guest speaker at a university more than once … this is a long overdue program."
"Good luck getting college students to turn off their phones."

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