Here’s why your students stopped buying stuff on campus

Here’s why your students stopped buying stuff on campus


Student spending is typically a huge revenue boost for colleges and universities. Food sales in a slump? Crickets chirping in the bookstore? Having to cut service positions because of declining revenue?

This is the reality among campuses throughout the country, and it’s taking a toll on more than just your dining halls and student stores. When students stop buying stuff on campus and take their business to the community or online merchants, it creates a ripple effect: fewer students on campus may reflect poorly on tour groups of prospective students, which could lead to a drop in applicants.

So why have students stopped spending their cash on campus? Here’s why, and what you can do about it:

Your Campus Lags in Student Experience

The majority of college students right now are Millennials, who have demonstrated they’d rather spend their money on experiences over all else. To the point, experience matters. What kind of experience are you providing on campus?

Students craving experiences may be more likely to spend their money somewhere with live music, activities, or better ambiance than what they’d find in a campus dining hall. They get personalized service, a bigger variety of options, and most importantly, they feel like they get better value for their time at a place that offers more for about the same price.

Students Have More (and Better) Options

Thanks to online shopping, students have more choices than ever when it comes to procuring textbooks and other classroom materials, especially since they can find used books at a fraction of the cost of what your bookstore is reselling them for.

In addition, some reports note more Millennials are eating in rather than dining out. Millennials have been credited with slowly killing the casual restaurant industry, but campus dining halls are also taking a hit. Students may prefer ordering delivery to avoid going out in public, or eating sandwiches and ramen to save money for other experiences.

But the number one most likely reason that student spending has shifted off the college campus…

You Aren’t Promoting Your Services Effectively

Between class schedules, homework, intramurals, Greek life, games, and other extracurricular activities, don’t expect your students to know about all the dining and retail services you offer (especially if you have a large campus with multiple options). Invest in the necessary resources to make your students aware of all your campus has to offer and find ways to stay top of mind.

Like every good business, it’s imperative to discover what moves your customer to take action and how you can most effectively reach them. For example, do your students favor speedy service or convenience (or both)? Would they spend more at your dining hall if you had a dorm room delivery service or online ordering?

Knowing this information, you can create campus-wide campaigns promoting these factors to raise awareness for your dining halls, stores, and other points of purchase. Even as a college, you can market your offerings to your students like any other business does to its customers. Don’t leave it to chance. Rather, give your students a valid reason to spend their money on campus, and they won’t be able to stay away.

Wondering how you can earn back your student’s business? Ask us about our real-time feedback solutions that can help promote your services and increase student engagement!

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