Archive for October, 2011
Small Business Saturday, a day created to support small businesses, has been gaining popularity among shoppers in its second year.
Started by American Express and 130 partners last year in an attempt to help drive up small business sales in local communities, this year’s event, held November 26, looks to improve upon the numbers from its inaugural year where 1.5 million Facebook users “liked” the Small Business Saturday Facebook page and American Express reported a 28 percent jump in sales from the same Saturday the previous year.
“Small Business Saturday is about supporting small business overall,” said Chenault. “The message that we really want to build here is support your small businesses. Not only will there be an increase in sales for small businesses, but you will see a growth in our overall economy and a growth in jobs. Last year was our first year, but we feel the momentum has built. People want to support small businesses and their neighborhoods.”
Despite being aimed toward helping small businesses, Small Businesses Saturday is looking to grow this year with the aid of several larger companies. This year’s event will feature an improved Facebook small business database intended to give national exposure to participating local retailers.
American Express Open has put together and online marketing tool kit for retailers and is offering $100 in free Facebook advertising to the first 10,000 business owners who sign up. Google has also teamed up with American Express to help small businesses tell My Business Story, a tool to create and post free videos online about their businesses.
FedEx has given $1 million to local economies in support of Small Business Saturday, and is offering discounts on printing services for signage advertising the event this year.
Elected officials across the country are also jumping on board with this year’s Small Business Saturday. More than 50 elected officials in 30 states around the country have signed proclamations endorsing Small Business Saturday in their communities. According to Chenault, there is an expectation to have public sector support from all 50 states during the second Small Business Saturday.
“We all know there is more that we can do during these tough economic times to help retailers,” said Bloomberg, who announced the “Building Blocks for Neighborhood Retail” initiatives to help promote jobs and local economic activity. “Promoting our shopping corridors and the businesses that call them home needs to be a grassroots effort and that is what today’s announcement is all about. That is the future and that is the way we are going to work our way out of this.”
By shopping, small retailers are hoping for large results this Small Business Saturday.
“All in all, Small Business Saturday is really about giving retailers the shot in the arm they need and I feel that this is a very viable campaign to be able to do it,” said Patricia Norins, spokesperson for Small Business Saturday.”The importance of that is to make it an official day. We need to make sure that local retailers get the recognition they need, and I think the icing on the cake is making sure that Small Business Saturday becomes permanently put on calendars.”
Want to get involved?
This event offers a great opportunity for college stores to showcase their offerings and gain free advertising! Want to learn more? It’s easy! Visit the Small Business Saturday website or Facebook page for details on how to benefit from free in-store signage and e-marketing materials, as well as $100 worth of free Facebook advertising!
Better yet, you can share promotions you’ll have that day or create videos advertising these details both of which will get national exposure! There’s even tools to help you create and manage your own social media pages all year-round!
Planning to participate? Let others in the industry know by sharing your event ideas on our Facebook page!
The following excerpt, from the article Location-Based Services Can Put Businesses on the Map, was written by MP Mueller for The New York Times. Check out how other small businesses are using these applications to generate traffic and how your store can do the same!
Although Starkville, Miss., is home to Mississippi State University and the fighting Bulldogs, it’s not a large city with a dense urban epicenter — the typical playground for those who use location-based marketing services such as Gowalla and Foursquare.
But one small-business owner there, Shane Reed of Strange Brew Coffee House, says sales of The Albino Squirrel Latte — a signature coffee drink with white chocolate and hazelnut syrup — and other drinks have increased 34 percent this September over the previous September, which he attributes to his use of Gowalla, a location-based check in service, and other social media sites.
When customers check in with Gowalla at the coffee house, they are greeted with a 10-percent-discount off of any drink. They show the counter crew the discount on their smartphones and proceed to sip happily.
Mr. Reed is an enthusiastic user of social media, but he says that in terms of generating walk-in traffic, the location-based services trump Facebook and Twitter. “You can have a great Twitter account and Facebook page,” Mr. Reed said, “but if people don’t know where you are located and can’t find you, it’s really not doing you much good.”
On average, he said, he gets four or five check-ins a day, but that number can jump to as many as 30 or 40 a day when Mississippi State’s Bulldogs are playing. And it doesn’t cost Mr. Reed anything, save the value of the discount.
There can be other advantages as well. When the users of location-based services see friends checking in on Gowalla, Foursquare or Yelp and making a comment about the business they are visiting, it can have an impact. The location services reward the businesses with the most check-ins by ranking them higher in their search results.
Someone who types “hair salon” into a location-based app on a smartphone, for instance, will get a list of the most popular places to get coiffed in the vicinity and the salon with the most check-ins will be at the top of the list with its logo, a link to its Web site and a map to take customers right to the door.
If you rely on local and foot traffic and you haven’t already claimed your page on these services, sign up. Once you’ve claimed your listing, cross-promote by adding links to your location-based pages to your Web and social media pages. Gowalla’s chief executive, Josh Williams, says small businesses can benefit from editing their listings.
“Fans have contributed their impressions of a business on Gowalla,” he said, “so small businesses need to go to Gowalla and make sure your business information is represented correctly and add topical, timely info, like the type of coffee that’s roasting right now. The second thing is to encourage your fans or customers to come by and check in — if your business is a hot spot, it will rise to the top of the list of businesses in your area, and that’s a great way to stand out.”
Foursquare’s manager for business development, Jake Furst, said the service offered a number of user-friendly apps to help merchants get the word out. “You can put a Foursquare Specials message in at 3 p.m., during a slow time,” he said, “and it will show up on a user’s phone within minutes. We’ve got a product called the Swarm Special. Merchants set up promo criteria for groups, like if we get 24 Foursquare users here at a set time, everyone at the bar gets a free drink.”
All the services offer businesses free window clings and stickers to encourage check-ins to get specials and find friends. They also provide merchants with check-in data, giving businesses valuable insights about their customers.
Foursquare’s merchant dashboard summarizes total daily check-ins, recent and most frequent visitors, visitors’ gender and most popular time of day for check-ins. You can also see how many of your customers who check in are broadcasting their whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook.
To determine which promotions will drive the most traffic, try scanning your Facebook and Twitter pages and those of your competitors to see what product or service people are talking about. Determine what you can afford to promote with discounts or freebies and target those for promoting. And when you sign up for these platforms, really commit to supporting them. Be sure you make time to work them, frequently pushing out updates and engaging with your audience.
With online retailers and rogue buyers constantly preaching lowest price, how can your college store keep students coming back? That’s the question Michael Goelzhauser, manager at USI Bookstore, was trying to answer just over a year ago.
“Too many students were going outside of our store, so I wanted to find a way to reward those who have remained with us and encourage them to make a return visit,” he explained. “It was time to get on the ball and win back our customers!”
Exploring his options during last year’s CAMEX, Goelzhauser first wanted to ensure he could find a solution specific to his store’s needs.
“We were looking for something that would be simple to implement but effective with our customer base,” he added. “We decided to go with the MBS Systems Loyalty module because it met both of those needs.”
In search of the perfect structure, he also did his due diligence in determining how to best run the program.
“We took it slow to establish what works best for our store and our students,” he said. “We’ve done lots of research into how other retail operations run their program and tried to base ours off of those models.”
Aiming to increase return visits, USI Bookstore ultimately decided to offer two levels of loyalty points. During customers’ first visits, they receive 1 point for every $10 spent in the store, known as the Silver level. Once they reach 200 points, however, they’re eligible to select merchandise from the store’s Reward catalog, plus they become a Gold Member!
“Gold members receive 1 point for every $5 they spend with us,” he said. “It’s just another way of showing our students that we will reward them for their continued business!”
Based on a similar strategy, the more points that students earn, the more significant the prizes they receive!
“We want students to see the benefit of shopping with us over the long term,” he added. “Our points don’t expire for 4 years so they have the chance to accumulate a significant amount over the course of their college experience here.”
Throughout the year, Goelzhauser has steadily continued to work toward his goal of swaying student perception.
“We are always looking for new ways to add to the program to further enhance it,” he said. “I hope it will only continue to grow. The opportunity is out there for us to connect with our customers, and this is just one more way we’re pursuing that outcome.”
During move-in day at the University of North Carolina, incoming student Leila Ismail is clearly feeling some freshman angst. A few friendly upperclassmen sprang to action in response.
But wait: there is something odd, or at least oddly corporate, about this welcome wagon. These U.N.C. students are all wearing identical T-shirts from American Eagle Outfitters.
Turns out three of them are working for that youth clothing chain on this late August morning, as what are known in the trade as “brand ambassadors” or “campus evangelists” — and they have recruited several dozen friends as a volunteer move-in crew. Even before Ms. Ismail can find her dorm or meet her roommate, they cheerily unload her family’s car. Then they lug her belongings to her dorm. Along the way, they dole out American Eagle coupons, American Eagle water canisters and American Eagle pens.
Ms. Ismail, 18, of Charlotte, welcomes the help. “I’ll probably always remember it,” she says.
American Eagle Outfitters certainly hopes so, as do a growing number of companies that are hiring college students to represent brands on campuses across the nation.
This fall, an estimated 10,000 American college students will be working on hundreds of campuses — for cash, swag, job experience or all three — marketing everything from Red Bull to Hewlett-Packard PCs. For the companies hiring them, the motivation is clear: college students spent about $36 billion on things like clothing, computers and cellphones during the 2010-11 school year alone, according to projections from Re:Fuel, a media and promotions firm specializing in the youth market. And who knows the students at, say, U.N.C., better than the students at U.N.C.?
Corporations have been pitching college students for decades on products from cars to credit cards. But what is happening on campuses today is without rival, in terms of commercializing everyday college life.
Companies from Microsoft on down are increasingly seeking out the big men and women on campus to influence their peers. The students most in demand are those who are popular — ones involved in athletics, music, fraternities or sororities. Thousands of Facebook friends help, too. What companies want are students with inside knowledge of school traditions and campus hotspots. In short, they want students with the cred to make brands seem cool, in ways that a TV or magazine ad never could.
“We are the people who understand what kinds of things the students will be open to,” says Alex Stegall, a Carolina junior who recruited about 20 members of her sorority for the American Eagle promotion. “It’s marketing for the students, by the students.”
It’s a good deal for the student marketers, who can earn several hundred to several thousand dollars a semester in salary, perks, products and services, depending on the company. But the trend poses challenges for university officials, especially at a time when many schools are themselves embracing corporate sponsorships to help stage events for students.
Target took a similar approach with at freshmen welcome week in late August, at what students and administrators alike characterized as a touchstone party for the class of 2015.
As part of the official university program, Target sponsored a welcome dinner on a Friday. Then, on Saturday, for the first real social event for freshmen, it hired buses to ferry students to a Target superstore in Durham for late-night shopping, says Winston B. Crisp, the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs.
From the school’s point of view, Mr. Crisp says, the excursion is both social and practical. It’s a convenient way for freshmen to pick up last-minute items. Equally important, he says, is that shopping at midnight keeps freshmen away from alcohol-fueled parties on their first weekend. University administrators supervise the event, he says, and control the marketing messages.
Both of these examples are easily adaptable to meet your store’s specific needs. For example, consider sending a staff of student employees to move-in day to mingle with incoming students, hand out free merchanidse, or simply lend a hand as a way to connect with your newest potential customers!
Partner with the campus transportation department to arrange trips to your store for last minute supplies or host a party during the first night on campus where local restaurants supply samples of their signature dishes!
If other retailers are present at these pivotal events, your store needs to be too! By connecting with the freshmen class early in their college experience, your store can increase the chance that you’ll develop a loyal customer in the years to come!
Looking for new apparel for your store? Look no further than School House! With a focus on creating fashionable, socially-responsible clothing for college students, Rachel Weeks, a recent Duke University graduate, began the company in Sri Lanka with nearly no experience. Now, she has expanded her line to over 100 colleges across the nation. Check it out!
The following excerpt, from the article Young Entrepreneur Brings Manufacturing Back Home to N.C., was written by David Mielach, BusinessNewsDaily Contributor, for BuisnessNewsDaily.com.
Instead of looking for a job after graduation, Rachel Weeks created one. For Weeks, founding School House, a socially responsible clothing company specializing in collegiate apparel, was a passion of hers since her time as an undergraduate at Duke University, but her journey was anything but simple.
“I had a nonexistent business background when I started School House,” said Weeks, CEO of School House. “I went to Duke University and graduated in 2007 with a degree in women’s studies. After graduating, I moved to Sri Lanka on a Fulbright grant to research the apparel industry and try to get my feet wet learning about apparel manufacturing.”
Despite being in a new country halfway around the world, Weeks remembered an experience from her time in Durham, N.C., that prompted her to think about starting her own business.
“Having been a college student who shopped at the Duke bookstore, I wanted to show my school spirit (by wearing Duke apparel) while also being a fashion-conscious college girl,” Weeks said. “I felt the market really lacked more lifestyle-oriented, fashion-driven products. So the idea for School House started when I was an undergraduate.”
Weeks, however, also wanted to make fashionable clothing with a message. An internship with Women Thrive Worldwide in Weeks’ junior year, gave her the push to start a socially responsible company.
“I was interested in ethical manufacturing and the idea of socially responsible apparel manufacturing,” Weeks said. “The idea (for School House) was collegiate apparel that had a socially conscious manufacturing mission.”
It was under those guiding principles that Weeks started School House.
“I decided to take the plunge while I was there (in Sri Lanka),” said Weeks, who established the first living-wage factory in Sri Lanka.
“I had $20,000 from an accident that I was in when I was living in New York City, and I used that money to invest in a freelance fashion designer and our first branding work. I designed a large collection for Duke, developed the samples, and got our first order from Duke.”
The first order from Weeks’ alma mater was just the start. School House products are now sold in 100 schools across the country.
Today, Weeks’ journey has come full circle since moving all of School House’s manufacturing operations and the company headquarters from Sri Lanka back to North Carolina.
Weeks credits her time in Sri Lanka and her interactions with another culture with giving her the knowledge she needed to be successful in her business career.
“Moving to Sri Lanka and learning that side of the garment trade was absolutely invaluable,” Weeks said. “I think that there are so many people involved in the fashion industry who never get to see the other side and the realities of garment manufacturing. While it was a difficult year and a difficult place to work and do business, it is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I think it made me a better businessperson.”
It was Weeks’ roots in her home state of North Carolina, though, that brought her and School House back to the Tar Heel State in spring 2011.
“We spent two years making (social responsibility) a reality in Sri Lanka, but ultimately decided that we wanted to try to expand our impact here in North Carolina,” said Weeks, who noted that 98 percent of clothing worn in the United States is manufactured overseas. “That was important to me being from North Carolina and being someone who witnessed so much unemployment and poverty in my home state.”
Despite Weeks’ passion to start her own business, a fear of failure nearly kept her from starting School House.
“As a young entrepreneur coming out of a great school where you feel you need to follow a traditional path and get a great, high-paying job, the prospect of failure is really terrifying,” Weeks said.
Weeks now has her own bit of advice for other business owners.
“There have been really, really trying times for me, our company and our team over the past years,” Weeks said.”The one thing I have never given into is the idea of giving up. That is not in the realm of possibility for us. If you stay centered and focused you can make it happen. Staying determined is absolutely the most important thing at the end of the day.”
Move over ‘Like,’ there’s a new Facebook metric in town! The newest measurement of success is called ‘People Talking About’ and it’s something marketers should keep in mind.
Visible to users and administrators, the statistic appears on Pages below the total number of ‘Likes,’ and will also be one of four numbers tracked by Pages Insights. The idea is that users will understand a Page with a high ‘People Talking About’ rating as one that has compelling content, according to Mashable.com. Likewise, content creators will be motivated to make their Pages more comment-worthy.
‘People Talking About’ determines this number by measuring user-initiated activity related to a Page. Therefore, the more users interact with your page by sharing your information in their timeline, the higher your page’s ranking will be. This includes:
- liking a Page
- posting to a Page’s Wall
- liking, commenting or sharing on a Page post
- answering a Question posted
- RSVP-ing to an event
- mentioning a Page in a post
- phototagging a Page
- liking or sharing a check-in deal
- or checking in at a Place.
The number is refreshed daily, and will be much more clear in the newest version of Facebook Insights, which has been rolling out over the past week. It’s this continuous updating that holds major benefits for brands, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
“This metric refreshes daily but goes back a week. So it’s the current barometer of how much conversation is being generated by someone’s Page on Facebook. It’s a good gauge of the content Pages are putting up and how to generate more conversations around a Page.”
Along with this number, Facebook has added several other metrics to the Insights page, including ‘Likes,’ ‘Friends of Fans’ and ‘Weekly Total Reach,’ which are designed to offer even more information to administrators of Pages.
While ‘Likes’ is self-explanatory, ‘Friends of Fans’ represents the actual number of friends your fans have, and ‘Weekly Total Reach’ is designed to be an accurate assessment of how much viral distribution elements of your Page has received.
David Baser, product manager for Pages Insights, says that despite a raft of new activities that Facebook will be introducing soon under the Facebook Gestures banner, those four metrics will remain and the ‘Like’ will maintain its ranking as a top measurement.
“Likes are an expression of identity,” Baser says. “It’s a user saying that I have a relationship with this brand.”
What do you think of the newest metric? Share your opinion on our Facebook page!
Living up to past traditions, the 7th annual MBS Systems Users Symposium was a huge hit! With over 300 collegiate retail professionals in attendance, our most anticipated event was another record-breaker! Even better, the event was more interactive than ever before! Check out the highlights in our closing video on YouTube and flip through the fun in our photo albums on Facebook!
Thanks for all the memories – we had a blast and we hope you did too! See you next year!
This has been a wonderful learning and social event for me. I have so many tools to return to my home college with. -Christy Johnson, Lamar Community College Bookstore
Great sessions, good food, lots of info, very productive and informative – Thanks again MBS crew. -Gerald Beauvais, Bloomsburg University Store
Thank you! The UMBC student that it ends up with thanks you also. MBS has been amazing all week! -Austin Kidwell, UMBC Bookstore (in regards to winning the Symposium Raffle!)
It was awesome…thanks! -Stacy Elofir, Towson University Bookstore
Thank YOU MBS and all who made the event so wonderful! -Gail Gunnarson Wahlberg, Lake Superior College Bookstore
Another great Symposium! Looking forward to next year. -David Kidd, Wichita State University Bookstore
Thank you! What a wonderful time I had! -Jenn Lehman, Bloomsburg University Bookstore
Despite the gloomy economy, consumers are eager to have a “frightfully good time” this Halloween as a record 161 million people plan to celebrate the ghoulish holiday, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
Sal Perisano, CEO of iParty in Dedham, said he’s seen sales of Halloween merchandise growing over the last 10 years, in part, to its popularity among college students.
“Halloween is still a cheap date,” he said. “You can have lots of fun without spending lots of money. It’s a way for people to celebrate their individuality and cut loose a little bit.”
The retail trade group’s survey found that seven in 10 Americans, or nearly 69 percent, plan to celebrate Halloween, up from 64 percent last year — the most in the survey’s 10-year history.
Those celebrating are expected to spend more. The average shopper will shell out about $72 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $66 last year, a 9 percent jump. Total Halloween spending is expected to reach $6.86 billion, the trade group said.
“Halloween is a great form of escape for lots of people and, given the fragile state of the economy, it’s more popular than ever,” said Doug Fleener, president of Dynamic Experiences, a retail consultant. “Consumers have cut back on so many other areas, but they’re willing to spend cash on a fun event that comes just once a year.”
Pamela Goodfellow, consumer insights director at BIGresearch and the survey’s author, said consumers will spend an average of about $26 on a costume. “As a non-gift holiday, even people on the strictest budget can enjoy themselves this Halloween,” she said.
With a campus that’s very involved in going green, San Francisco State University Bookstore wanted to find further ways to support the initiative. Partnering with local community organizations, the store has made serious strides towards that goal with their Wooden Nickel Program.
“Our community is incredibly conscious of their environmental impact,” said Husam Erciyes, director of strategic projects and marketing. “This is one way we can show that we’re dedicated to doing our part.”
Looking to reduce the use of plastic bags, the store now rewards any customer who refuses a bag or brings their own through the program. As a token of their thanks, SFSU Bookstore then provides a wooden nickel, which students can donate to one of two SF State organizations that focus on protecting the environment.
Giving the program a true purpose, the SFSU Bookstore will donate the equivalent dollar amount to each organization at the end of the semester!
“It’s a tangible way for us to not only reduce our own carbon footprint, but also expand sustainability on campus by donating to the cause,” Erciyes added. “Plus, students enjoy having the ability to decide where their contribution is going; it gives them a sense of ownership in the process.”
To promote their newest eco-friendly effort, the store created a cross-channel marketing strategy, advertising on social media, their website, in-store, and on campus.
“We have a display in the store that explains how the program works and offers details about each organization. We keep the wooden nickel collection jars here, too, so that students can visualize the impact they’re having on these organizations,” he said.
So far, the store has found the program to be extremely well received.
“Participation has been tremendous,” he explained. “When we explain the program at the register, students are very receptive and usually thank us for offering them the option. It’s created a sense of goodwill among our customers, and that’s definitely invaluable.”
Many college stores offer exclusive weekly specials on their Facebook page as a way of rewarding their current fans and encouraging others to join. But, if students aren’t interested in your offer, then these promotions may do more harm than good! So, how can you decide what items will add value to your social media? Ask, of course!
Check out how Sears is using this strategy to not only find out what their fans want, but also interact with them in new ways in the following article, Sears Engages Customers with Facebook Face Off, written and published by RISnews.com!
Retailers are using social media to better understand what their customers want, and Sears is leveraging that technology to literally give consumers exactly what they want — by letting them vote for which items will be featured on its online local ad. Sears is giving customers the chance to be heard and choose which offers they want to see in the next online local ad through its Local Ad Faceoff application on its Facebook page.
Each week, a variety of items are put up against each other two at a time. Fans of the retailer’s Facebook page are given images of the two similar items — for example, two different luggage collections or two different pots and pans sets — along with detailed information including the products’ original prices, potential local ad prices and the percentage of savings they could get on the products. Fans then vote for the item they want to see in the ad, and can check back in a week to shop the winning items.
The interactive and engaging app then allows fans to share their votes and featured ad items on their own Facebook walls and their friends’. Customers can also see which of their friends have voted in that week’s face off, as well as what specifically they voted for.
Aside from engaging with its customers, the Local Ad Faceoff application allows Sears to focus on the variety of products it sells. With local ad items sold both online and in stores, the application is also a vehicle to drive customers to its stores.