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.

Office Depot incentivizes distraction-free learning with student-geared mobile rewards

As the back-to-school season begins, Office Depot is emphasizing the importance of distraction-free learning environments and incentivizing students to refrain from using their smartphones in class by letting them earn rewards points for school supplies via the Pocket Points application.

The office supplies retailer is targeting one of its core customer demographics, college students, by leveraging the popularity of mobile-based rewards programs. Students who download and open the Pocket Points app on campus before locking their smartphone screens will receive rewards points that can be redeemed directly through the app for savings on Office Depot’s dorm and school supplies.

“This partnership helps us engage directly with college students, who are a very important audience as they are still in school and have slightly more purchasing power than younger students,” said Diane Nick, senior vice president of marketing at Office Depot.

“By partnering with Pocket Points, we’re encouraging students to lock their phones and really concentrate on their studies with the reward of getting special discounts on supplies.”

Incentivizing mobile-savvy students
Office Depot is the only office supplies brand teaming up with the Pocket Points app, which allows students to collect rewards in exchange for locking their smartphones and refraining from interacting with them during class. Pocket Points is available for iOS and Android devices.

Once students lock their smartphones’ home screens, the Pocket Points app will display the amount of time that has been spent not interacting with the mobile device.

It will also show how long students must wait before reaching the next rewards level, giving them even more incentive to keep their smartphones tucked away during learning hours.

Users can access the in-app leaderboard to see how other students at their school are faring, thereby adding a layer of competition to the rewards-based platform.

Office Depot’s partnership with Pocket Points serves to further the retailer’s commitment to helping students leverage technology to succeed in the classroom. The brand hopes to inspire students to keep up with positive classroom habits by offering them easy access to savings on relevant school and dorm supplies.

According to a 2013 study conducted by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, college students spend 20 percent of in-class time interacting with mobile devices for unrelated activities.

This suggests that more brands seeking to appeal to these consumers should offer incentives to those who refrain from using their smartphones during class.

Office Depot and Pocket Points’ partnership will be live in 45 of the latter’s markets, which include Pennsylvania State University, Auburn University and Texas A&M University, among others.

Once Pocket Points’ users accumulate enough rewards points, they may redeem them directly at

“Students who redeem the Office Depot and OfficeMax coupons will be able to purchase school and office supplies, dorm furniture and more,” Ms. Nick said. “However, technology products are excluded from the current coupons on the app – but new coupons over time may allow for technology purchases.

“Students should always check the disclaimer once they redeem the coupon to understand which items do not qualify.”

Mobile’s role in back-to-school season
According to a recent survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers, mobile should be at the forefront of retailers’ minds as the back-to-school season kicks off, as 86 percent of shoppers plan to leverage their smartphones while browsing in-store (see story).

Mobile has been playing a larger role in back-to-school shopping as consumers look for streamlined ways to purchase supplies without having to encounter long in-store lines.

For instance, Staples prepared for back-to-school season by enabling its app users to snap a photo of their shopping list, send it to a store associate through an AI-based chat and receive the best product options, which can be purchased and picked up in store or shipped to their homes (see story).

However, office supplies retailers should also devise ways to keep their brands front-of-mind even as students begin the new scholastic year.

“Partnering with third-party mobile apps like Pocket Points gives us access to more specific target demographics and also often allows us to more directly engage consumers with offers and messages that are tailored to their interests and needs,” Ms. Nick said.