Social media is opening the lines of communication between business and consumer and allowing for a whole new form of interaction. So, it’s no surprise that crowdsourcing, or soliciting feedback from a group of people to solve a problem or develop an idea, is taking off like wildfire in the world of retail.
Because it serves a smaller school, Panola College Store finds this strategy to be a perfect fit for its business model. The store operates with a high turnover rate for items in its merchandise department, so it’s essential that an ordered product be one that interests students.
“We serve a school of 2300, so with any new product or line, we have to consider who will buy it, and how many we can sell,” explained Jessica Pace, director. “The best way to do that is for us to gauge student interest before ever placing an order.”
This year, Pace put the strategy into action while attending her first-ever CAMEX. The options featured at the trade show can be overwhelming and she needed to ensure that she chose ones her students would purchase. Facebook offered her the perfect avenue to ask for input. For instance, she posted a picture of Beats by Dre headphones on her store’s page and encouraged fans to let her know what they thought.
“They’re a high-priced item, so I wanted to guarantee we could sell them before we went through the effort of getting authorized and ordering them,” she said. “The feedback was overwhelming; students made it clear they wanted to see them in our store, so it made my decision easy!”
And, they weren’t kidding. The headphones flew off the shelves and the store officially sold out on the first day of rush. That wasn’t the only item they had this experience with, either. Pace also posted a picture of Shoes of Soul, a line similar to TOMS, and students again made it clear they would buy them.
”We had people post several times after that asking when they would be in,” she added. “We put them out on the Friday before Spring Break, and by the Friday after break, we had already sold 103 pairs! Under Armour was the same way; we sold out of our first order right away, because students had been anxiously waiting for the product to arrive.”
The success of the strategy gives the store an advantage every college store wishes they had: an inside track to college students’ minds.
“In this industry, I think we all wish we had a crystal ball so we knew what trends were going to be popular and what our customers would buy,” Pace described. “This is just one avenue that lets us actually get close to that. It’s not only reassurance for our purchasing decisions, but also a way to connect with our students and make them feel more involved. They love helping me shop and it gives them a chance to participate in a different side of our store than they’re used to seeing.”
How does your store implement crowdsourcing? Share your ideas with other stores in the comments section below.