For as long as director John Gorsuch can remember, University of North Carolina Student Stores has offered a pre-order program, through which students who ordered their books early conveniently received them packaged in a plain white box. It wasn’t until three years ago, however, that the store realized the potential those boxes had for marketing.
“It’s basically a walking billboard, so we decided to start printing on the box to promote our buyback, as well as textbook ordering for the following semester,” Gorsuch said. “It’s a great way to educate new students on the textbook cycle and all that we offer.”
The tricky part was figuring out how to get students to actually read what was on the box. As a solution, the store came up with a promotion that encouraged their customers to not only take notice of the text, but also to keep the box for the entire semester; an idea that has become a big success on their campus.
“We decided to incentivize the process by asking students to keep the box and use it to bring their books to buyback,” he explained. “When they do, they receive a free T-shirt, whether they sell us their books or not. We don’t sell the shirt in the store either, so it’s priceless, and that seems to make students love it even more.”
The promotion is only advertised on one side of the pre-pack box with brief instructions and a picture of the T-shirt. According to Gorsuch, that’s all the marketing it needs.
“Hundreds of students participate every semester,” he described. “Roughly 1300-1700 students take advantage of our pre-pack program, and 40-50% of them return their box at the end of the semester for a T-shirt; it’s generated a great response.”
The shirt prominently reads “Carolina Victory” across the chest, with the store’s name emblazoned down one sleeve.
“It’s not a blatant ad for our store, but it’s something unique that you can’t get anywhere else, and that’s made it very popular with our students,” he added.
The promotion is also a great way for the store to advance their green initiatives because it essentially encourages a recycling effort.
“Rather than having the boxes ditched around campus, we’re able to break them down and put them into cardboard recycling,” he explained.
But, the primary benefit is getting students into the routine of shopping for and selling books to their on-campus store. And in Gorsuch’s opinion, that’s invaluable.
“The first experiences you have with students are so important, and this allows us get the incoming class in the habit of coming to our store for all their textbook needs,” he described. “In our world, it’s all about traffic, frequency and loyalty and this is our way of training students to keep coming back throughout the year.”