Dedicated to offering affordable course materials, Kutztown University Student Bookstore gives away free textbooks each semester. But, to keep it fun for students, they find a new way to present this benefit every so often.
“We've always had an emergency textbook fund for students who might lose their books in a fire, flood or even burglary,” explained Amanda Schaeffer, public relations manager. “For years, we've taken donation books left behind during buyback and tried to get whatever money we could by selling them online. Over the years, there has been so much money left over, that we wanted to find a way to make it benefit the students.”
In the past, for example, the store initiated a ‘Begging for Books’ promotion, which allowed students to submit a brief essay on why they deserved free textbooks for a chance to be one of the lucky recipients. When entries began to decline, however, the store decided to try a new approach.
“We wanted to make it a little easier for students to participate and to offer them instant gratification for buying from us,” Schaeffer said. “So, this semester we decided to do something completely random by giving an instant reward in the store and the room where they can pick up their online orders.”
With five lucky winners daily, the store awarded randomly selected students by paying for their most expensive item during checkout!
“We predetermined all of the winning locations and times before our rush started on Monday,” she described. “When it was time for each winner, we started ringing a cowbell and took balloons to the register or web order room and started cheering for the winning customer. We let them know that they were a lucky winner, and that their most expensive item was going be free!”
The students’ reactions were just what the store had been hoping for!
“Some of them were immediately excited, and others needed to be convinced that we were serious; they were in disbelief!” she said. “It didn't seem to matter if it was a free notebook or a $200 textbook, the students were genuinely grateful and thrilled to be saving some money.”
To publicize the event, the store reached out to students through both traditional and digital channels.
“We advertised with in-store signage and plasma TV screen ads within our Student Union,” she explained. “We let fans know on our own Facebook page, plus the University’s Facebook page shared our posts so we were able to receive some great PR and additional exposure. Each semester, we also send out a postcard to students reminding them to place their textbook orders early, so we included this promotion there, too!”
With excited students and steady traffic, the benefits of the promotion far outweighed the costs, according to Schaeffer.
“Overall, we spent $1,253.77 on 15 winners,” she said. “The average amount spent on
each student was $83.58. The goal of these back-to-school promotions is to take the surplus emergency fund money we make from donated books and give it back to our students, so we were very happy to see the excitement and the buzz that was generated around campus!”
To others who are looking for promotions to help enhance their image and exposure with students, Schaeffer has just one piece of advice:
“Keep reinforcing the fact that you’re here to offer your students more affordable options and then do promotions like this one to prove it,” she said. “The more you can spread that message, the better off your store will be!”