Why are Amazon, Walmart and Target Camping Out on College Campuses?


It’s no secret that many companies market aggressively towards the millennial crowd. Big box retailers especially are taking their efforts a step further and really honing in on their desired market – college students.

College campuses are being called the new “retail battleground” and with good reason. No longer at home (and out of their parents’ careful gaze), with their own purse strings to tug at whenever, wherever and on whatever they please, campuses are teeming with millennial consumers, most of which are still figuring out their shopping preferences. Recognizing the average college student’s need for affordability and convenience, retailers are moving in for the retail kill.

Target currently has 5 stores near college campuses and plans to have 8 more by next year. Not to be left in the dust, competitors like Walmart and Best Buy have also tried their hands at operating on or near college campuses. Even e-tail giant Amazon has expanded its number of pick-up locations and co-branded bookstores on campuses across the country.

It’s one thing to move in on their territory but how exactly are they keeping students’ interest? By catering to their needs, of course! From food (tons of ramen) to offering dorm-appropriate furnishings and, of course, offering student rates, these stores are pulling out all the stops.

None of this should come as a surprise – after all, millions spend about $600 billion a year in the US alone. For many companies, the college crowd is their bread and butter. Others simply recognize that marketing to a crowd that will soon represent 30% of all retail sales is just plain, good business sense. CMO and Co-founder of Klitch®, Liam van der Merwe explains his strategy thusly, “Our company roots are as a collegiate startup, so we’re quite familiar with the college lifestyle and [students’] purchasing habits. The best way to think of it is: college students aren’t in buying mode, but rather, partying-sprinkled-with-a-mix-of-studying-and-debt mode. Your product is the last thing on their minds.

“Through lots of trial and experimentation, we have found that the sampling approach works really well on college students. Having a company-themed table or pop-up tent at the heart of a campus and handing out free samples works really well. This method has provided us with direct feedback and acts as word-of-mouth marketing, causing students without the product to also want [to try]. The trick is to keep supplies limited and not to flood the campus.”

Another Hubba brand, Campus Protein, finds that working with Brand Ambassadors, or “Campus Reps” in conjunction with sampling works really well. Using models or athletes that are relatable to the students is more likely to convince them to buy than your usual salesperson hocking your wares.

It seems the retail industry has spoken regarding the key to a college student’s heart. If you’re planning on tackling this lucrative demographic, follow the steps of many retailers and brands before you: get as close as you can, get to know students’ likes, wants and needs and definitely try not to break the bank.

Check out these Hubba brands currently crushing it on college campuses by clicking below!