Elizabeth Harz serves as Vice President of Business Development at Chegg, The Student Hub. She is charged with building the company’s marketing services business, helping connect external brands with 16-to-24 year-old consumers. The Makegood recently spoke with Elizabeth about how millennial students differ from past generations and how Chegg is working with brand partners to help students save time, save money, and get smarter.
The Makegood: You reach approximately 30% of U.S. college students with your services. How does this generation use technology and digital media and how do you reach them?
Today’s 16-to-24-year-olds are concurrent platform users. They watch TV, listen to music, shop, talk with their friends, study – the same things teenagers and young adults have always done, but they do it all simultaneously. And they do a lot of it on their phone, their laptop or their tablet. For them it’s just life – not real, not virtual.
For Chegg and the brand partners we work with, it means we need to connect with them via multiple platforms – which is why integrated 360-degree marketing programs are so important. We find that the most successful programs are those that surround the student in different aspects of their lives – combining digital media integrations, on-campus activations, and product sampling initiatives that give these young consumers the opportunity to get hands-on with new products and services. A great example is a program we recently ran with Microsoft SkyDrive – providing students free access to online study tools before their final exams, making it easy for them to try the digital storage and collaboration service, and giving them a chance to chill out in on-campus study break lounges.
The Makegood: You build your products and services with a ‘students first’ attitude. What can publishers and marketers learn from you?
“Recommendation from a friend” is our biggest and best source of new customers, and this is a direct result of Chegg’s commitment to putting students first. Our promise to students is to help them save time, save money and get smarter. We’ve established a trusted relationship with our community, and we take that very seriously.
This approach extends to our brand partnerships. We’re selective about the companies we partner with, teaming up only with those who share our student focus and are similarly committed to delivering them value. One important way this comes to life is in the special student discounts we’re able to offer. We work with partners such as online clothing retailer, Nasty Gal, to help students save on their back-to-school shopping. We also work with partners through our scholarship platform, celebrating student achievement and awarding students with things like a new laptop from HP or a $1000 gift card from Pottery Barn Dorm.
Thinking about what students need and directly addressing their priorities – in the context of what’s happening at different times throughout the school year and over the course of their college career – is key.
The Makegood: You are partnering with brands including American Express, Microsoft and Red Bull. Can you elaborate on these programs and describe a project that you’re especially proud of?
There are a couple of different angles here. First, we really love the “surprise and delight” experience we’re able to provide students when working with a partner like Red Bull. It’s simple, but extraordinarily powerful. The student receives a can of Red Bull in his textbook delivery box – of course it’s a hit! In today’s world, word of mouth – fueled by social media – is huge, and seeing thousands of students organically tweeting about how much they love this experience is hard to beat.
We’re also really proud of the work we do with partners such as Serve from American Express that helps students develop key life skills. Our partnership is focused on empowering students to better manage their finances. We’re introducing them to a new digital prepaid account offering, making it easy for them to get paid for selling their books to Chegg, and providing access to great money-saving deals and offers.
The Makegood: This year, Chegg built the Student Graph. How does it work and how could marketers benefit from this product?
The Student Graph idea is all about connecting students with schools and scholarships, textbooks and eTextbooks, courses, study tools, great products and services from brand partners, and other students – the many elements they need to be successful in school. We think about it this way: Facebook is the social graph. LinkedIn is the professional graph. Chegg is the student graph.
The benefit to marketers working with Chegg is the ability to authentically connect with 16-to-24-year-old consumers in this context. We work closely with our brand partners to integrate them into the student experience in ways that are relevant and timely to what’s top of mind for students at different points during the school year and over the course of their academic career.
We also, of course, have a lot of data on students. We provide consumer insights to our partners, helping them better understand this audience – what they plan to buy, why they buy, what matters to them. Our partners can then use this information in refining their product and marketing strategies – creating a virtuous cycle that delivers a win-win-win for students, our partners and Chegg.
The Makegood: You help students discover relevant content and study smarter. What differentiates these young millennials from boomers and what are their drivers of motivation?
Today’s students are savvy. They have so much information and so many tools available to them – and they really put it all to good use. Students use technology to study more effectively – whether that’s by taking an online course that supplements on-campus classes, using the camera on their phone to capture and catalog class notes, or attending “office hours” with their professor via Skype. They carefully create their own personal brands via social media. They seek out extracurricular activities and internships that will put them a step ahead in the job search. They serve as brand advocates for the products and services they truly love. This generation is motivated to succeed, and students are taking control of their experience both in and out of the classroom.
The Makegood: What will the eTextbook market look like in 3 years and what will we see coming from Chegg?
ETextbooks are increasingly popular each semester, and we see more and more students trying this option for one or more of their courses. We expect this trend will continue over the next three years. Chegg has an HTML5 eReader, which is platform agnostic – accessible on all devices and across operating systems and service providers. Our commitment to students is simple: we are here to help them save time, save money, and get smarter. Providing easy, affordable access to e-textbooks is one way we deliver on this promise.
What you should expect from Chegg is continued innovation in providing value to students from the time they start their college search through college graduation. We’ve made great progress in building the leading hub for students, and we’ll only accelerate this momentum in the months and years to come.
The Makegood: Thank you Elizabeth.