Marketing is an essential aspect of any retail store’s success. But, with strict budget constraints, many struggle to implement effective strategies that will reach their target audience.
With no marketing allowance in their budget, Mount Mercy University Campus Store recently overcame that obstacle with creative, no-cost advertising options devised by their students.
“One of the marketing professors on campus is very pro-bookstore and she decided to have her students help us advertise,” explained Janie Mills, manager. “By working through our school’s division of the international non-profit organization SIFE, which stands for Students in Free Enterprise, her class partnered with us to plan, organize and implement various marketing initiatives.”
For instance, the SIFE students’ first goal was to bring awareness to the store’s soft goods.
“They proposed the idea of live mannequin modeling, where they would each wear a selected outfit found at our store and pose in high-traffic areas around campus,” she said. “We’d never done anything like it before, so we thought, ‘Why not?!’”
To start, the students each picked out an outfit that they wanted to model. They then selected the times and locations that they believed would draw the largest crowds of their peers.
“They modeled in the cafeteria during lunch hour and other common campus buildings during high-traffic times,” Teresa Wery, assistant manager, explained. “Because this was going on during the last week before Winter Break, the students were also holding homemade decorative gift tags that let passersby know that their outfits could be purchased at the campus store; it was very effective!”
Drawing additional traffic as well as sales, the store believes the new promotion helped increase visibility.
“We saw an increase of $8,000 in overall sales from the previous year and a $3,000 increase in soft good sales, which was great!” Mills described. “Buyback was going on at the same time, too, and many students were bringing their cash straight into the store to make a purchase. Because we had recently moved, several students told us that they hadn’t even known where our new location was before seeing the live models, so it was great to gain those new customers!”
That’s not all the SIFE team students did, either! They also suggested that the store offer color-coded candy canes each assigned with a different discount value to reward those who shopped there during the holidays.
“Before a transaction was complete, each customer could draw one candy cane and were then awarded the corresponding discount. We even had a couple that offered a free item; everyone loved it!” Wery said.
The SIFE students also decorated the store with festive holiday décor and promoted a ‘Buy Local’ campaign, as well.
“Overall, it was a great partnership and we were very grateful for their efforts,” Wery said. “Most importantly, the students enjoyed helping and seemed really excited to be able to make a difference!”
The project also helped shine some light on the way a college store operates, enhancing their image in the eyes of students.
“I think it gave them a different perspective on the store, and made them realize that we’re not the big, bad bookstore after all!” Mills added.
Moving forward, the store plans to continue to partner with student employees for help in marketing as well as other areas.
“One of the students really took the bull by the horns during the project and was very interested in assisting us further,” Mills said. “Her professor created an internship for her so that she could continue working with us for the next two years; we’re looking forward to seeing all that she comes up with!”
To others who may be struggling with the monetary requirements for marketing, Mills has one suggestion, “Get your students involved as much as you can!”
“Let them take ownership of their campus store and be a part of the process,” Wery added. “They know what your customers like and respond to, and they are willing to share that knowledge if you ask! It’s a great partnership because they get valuable work experience for their resume and your store receives important feedback!”