ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Commerce Daily in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out our topic page for the latest mobile commerce news.

Southwestern College taps Bluetooth for selfie-based mobile payments

Higher education is one of the latest sectors receiving a digital makeover, with some colleges opting to drive purchases on campus via Bluetooth-enabled, hands-free mobile payments that resonate with students well-versed in selfies.

Southwestern College in Kansas has tapped customer identity solution Lucova and Fresh Ideas Food Management to roll out the FreshX application to on-site students, allowing them to enjoy easier checkouts without having to rifle for their wallets or smartphones. The hands-free payment option has resulted in an increase in visits to cafeterias on campus, suggesting that the sheer ease of completing a transaction can ramp up universities’ revenue more than a standard meal plan card.

“Students are digital natives, who adopt technology quickly – especially when it makes their lives easier,” said Ara Ehamparam, director of business development at Lucova Inc., Toronto. “Competitive services like Uber Eats, which make buying food off campus quite easy, are challenging college food service providers to find new and innovative ways of keeping students’ business on campus.

“The best way to engage them is through the one thing they can’t do without, their mobile devices,” he said. “Through campus mobile wallets like FreshX, students enjoy convenience through a completely hands-free process.

“They also get to skip long lines and buy their food in advance from their dorm room if they wanted to.  We don’t see this as just a trend, but a necessary solution going forward.”

Paying with selfies
Southwestern College students can now avoid long lines in cafeterias and skip the process of pulling out their phones or wallets to pay for food. Each user’s meal plan and rewards are stored within the FreshX app.

Lucova’s “Pay with Your Selfie” technology uses a Bluetooth solution to match the student’s image with a token-form of their meal plan, debit or credit card stored on their smartphone to provide a seamless in-store transaction.

This way, consumers can purchase their meals in a hands-free manner. Staff members also receive benefits from this service, as they may easily access students’ names and profiles as soon as they enter the on-campus establishment, therefore offering a more personalized interaction.

Meals can be purchased by students who pre-set their preferences in the app.

The implementation will likely lead to a serious increase in sales for college dining establishments. Students who may have forgotten their wallets or meal cards in their dorm rooms can still drop by a cafeteria and purchase food, leading to a barrage of impromptu purchases.

“Our work with other campuses on similar mobile wallets show that students who use the app on average visit the food establishment three times more often and spend two times more than they normally would,” Mr. Ehamparam said. “The frictionless and fast experience appears to be a draw for them.

“We’ve also noticed that about 85 percent of them enroll into the in-app loyalty and rewards program, further indicating their engagement.”

Benefits for institutions
This solution is an ideal choice for institutions serving younger consumers, who are reliant on mobile devices for many services. Millennials are often used to leveraging mobile payments when purchasing food and beverages, although it typically occurs at off-site locations such as a Starbucks or Taco Bell.

The administration may be able to score brownie points with students by offering this ability, and can also glean valuable analytics and customer data from the app.

“[Students] have been very excited about FreshX and the early adopters continue to recruit new users,” said Kris Lensmeyer, director of business development at Fresh Ideas Food Service Management, Columbia, MO. “They love the ‘cool’ factor of using their phone as their dining card.”

Lucova, Inc. has previously introduced a similar platform at Toronto’s Humber College. However, if the Southwestern College rollout takes off with faculty and students alike, many more universities could be tapping mobile payment solutions within the next year or so.

“We’ve officially launched this week, but early feedback shows that there’s strong demand from both sides,” Lucova’s Mr. Ehamparam said. “Staff now have a more meaningful connection with the students that they service on a regular basis.

“As soon as a student walks up to the checkout area, they can see their name, image and buying preferences right on the POS screen to provide a personalized experience,” he said. “Students are happy that they no longer have to carry around various cards and deal with long line-ups just to buy a slice of pizza and pop.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York