After textbook rush, the winter months can be slow a time of year for college stores. So, Kutztown University Student Bookstore decided to create an event that would brighten students’ day and bring them into the store.
“Our goal was to do something fun and different to show our students how much we appreciate them,” explained Amanda Schaeffer, public relations manager. “We timed it to take place about two weeks before Spring Break, when everyone is suffering from the winter woes and could use a fun event to lift their spirits.”
“Our buyers did a great job, and we ended up with quite a few different items,” she said. “We also keep a box of vendor samples and free products that we receive throughout the year and use those as prizes for events, too, so we had a lot to choose from.”
To spread the word to students, the store began putting postcards in shopping bags 10 days prior to the event. They also strategically placed posters in Residence Halls and Academic Buildings around campus, as well as included a short write-up in their weekly student e-newsletter and staff/faculty daily e-newsletter.
“All of those outlets are necessary, however, we focused a lot more energy on our social media pages,” Schaeffer explained. “We created an event on Facebook a few weeks before, and then teased the Frozen Beach Bash with photos of a backdrop we planned to use, as it progressed.”
“We used Instagram for most of the photos, but we put them on our Facebook page and tweeted them to our followers, too,” she added. “We knew that students would need to see what was building in order to get excited about it.”
On the day of the event, students were greeted by bookstore staff and asked if they wanted to spin the "Wheel of Prizes & Discounts" as they entered the store. Discounts ranged from 10-30% off one regularly priced apparel or gift item that day only.
Keeping with the summer beach theme, the store also offered a "Topless Sale," with all sweatpants and shorts 25% off the lowest ticketed price. There were refreshments, as well; they had their local health food store come in for a product sampling and their partner, Rita's Italian Ice, sold four beachy flavors of Italian Ice for $1 per cup.
In the afternoon, they offered students an even more unique opportunity by bringing in a Pepsi-sponsored flip book machine! Customers used it to record six seconds of video with their friends using a variety of silly props. Then, the video was turned into a flip book that they could take with them. (Watch a video of one of the flip books!)
One of the store’s very talented employees also built a beach backdrop, complete with a Kutztown surfboard, tiki man and other summer-themed props. They used it as the basis for a Twitter photo contest, where customers were encouraged to pose with friends and tweet the photo to @KutzBookstore, using #frozenbeachbash. At the end, the entire staff voted to determine the top two photos, and the winners received a digital camera as their prize.
“When we told students about the photo contest and flip book machine, it was neat to watch them be silly and laugh and just have a good time with it,” she described. “This was our first time using Twitter for a contest, and we were pleased and encouraged by the number of students who participated and were excited about it.”
There was also a raffle that anyone could enter to win either a Pepsi backpack or an iPod docking station, both sponsored by Pepsi, which added to the excitement of the day.
With so many fun activities, the Frozen Beach Bash drew a steady stream of students to the store throughout the event.
“It was so much fun for our store staff to see all of the students, staff and faculty having fun in our store. Groups of students would come in, spin the wheel and get really excited about a free prize or discount; it was great,” Schaeffer said.
With additional traffic throughout the day, the store saw an increase in sales of over $2,000 compared to the same day last year.
“The interaction we had on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was all positive too, and we gained quite a few more followers,” she added. “We're building conversation with our students, and they're responding positively.”
The biggest benefit to the store, however, couldn’t be quantified in dollars or ‘likes.’ Schaeffer was most pleased by the impact the event made on students’ perception of the store.
“Like all college stores, we want to build trust with our students and show them that we are here for them,” she emphasized. “When students came to our event, they realized that we weren't trying to sell them something; we were giving them something fun to do, and many of them left with great prizes.”
The staff agreed that the event was well worth the effort, and they hope to host more activities like the Frozen Beach Bash in the future.
“We were able to take a lot of photos and videos to use on our social media sites to show all of the other students who didn't attend what they missed, so hopefully they will want to stop by next time,” she said. “Overall, we heard a lot of ‘thank you’ and ‘this was so much fun.’ Our goal was to make it a fun day for the students, and it was clear that everyone who came had a great time.”