Telecommunications giant AT&T has signed an agreement with college-oriented Web portal edu.com that will market AT&T’s communications services to the site’s undergraduate and graduate student users.
AT&T will offer its wireless, long distance, Internet access and calling card services to edu.com’s membership base, and the companies will conduct a joint marketing effort on the Internet and through traditional advertising channels.
The online promotion includes listing edu.com on AT&T’s online Student Resource Center, which provides information on various AT&T products and services for college students.
Meanwhile, on edu.com, a new “AT&T Phone Shop” aggregates all of the telephone company’s products and services in one area. The shop offers special incentives for new customers, such as 100 free minutes of long distance service and a free online message center.
Edu.com has similar agreements with IBM, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard for computer products, Adobe, Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Symantec for computer software, VarsityBooks.com for textbooks, and Citibank and BankBoston for financial services.
Unlike those other companies, AT&T will stand alone as edu.com’s exclusive telecommunications service provider.
Carving A Niche
Although edu.com competes with a growing number of other online portals that are trying to carve out a space in the budgets of college students, the site differentiates itself by selling only to registered college students and graduate students.
This strategy has enabled the company to negotiate special deals with major companies, such as AT&T, that are willing to discount their products and services to reach the college market.
Edu.com allows all visitors to browse the site, but they must register to access any of the special offers or services. To verify that its members are in fact college students, the company checks the visitor’s name, school and major before approving the enrollment application. In exchange for such personal information, edu.com throws in a free gift or coupon for purchases on edu.com when the student enrolls.
AT&T believes that the plan gives the company a chance to win over relatively uncommitted new consumers, who have significant discretionary money to spend.
“Understanding the unique challenges students encounter when making telecom choices, the Communications Shop is a user-friendly online store that utilizes a number of unbiased resources, including third party content and buyer’s guides, that clarify and simplify the process of selecting the right communications plan,” the company said.
Students Comfortable On Net
A recent Greenfield Online study noted that more than half of all U.S. college students surf the Internet from their wired dorm rooms or other residences, and 84 percent have access from some location on campus.
Greenfield predicts that increased access will result in increased online buying. Their data shows that twice as many students visited online shopping sites in the last school year as did the prior year, and 62 percent of those shoppers said they bought something.
Boston, Massachusetts-based edu.com was founded in 1998 by Adam and Linda Kanner. The privately-held company has received funding from the Mayfield Fund, Information Technology Ventures, Student Advantage and other individual and institutional investors.