The competition for student business is only increasing in the collegiate retail industry. And, for many, the effects are easy to see. Finding a solution, on the other hand, can be much more of a challenge.
Never one to rest on her laurels, however, Mary Tutalo, assistant director of Blue Colt Bookstore, decided it was time to take action after realizing early last year that many of her students were shopping elsewhere.
“We were losing sales, so I knew needed to find a way to make the bookstore a rewarding place to go again,” she explained. “We wanted to create a common sense of belonging here, something that would make our students want to come back.”
One way they have been able to achieve that vision is through the addition of the Colt Loyalty Rewards Program, powered by the MBS Systems Loyalty module. Implementing the program last year, Tutalo has seen it expand into something the store can truly use as a selling point.
“When we were first starting out, we researched what other college stores were doing to try to help guide us in building the framework of the program,” she said. “We decided to keep it as simple as possible so that students could easily understand and embrace it. I think that’s the key to the success of any program.”
Offering one point for every dollar spent both in store and online, students are able to select merchandise from Blue Colt Bookstore’s online catalog when redeeming their points. With very few restrictions, the program is easy to join and easy to follow.
As with many new services, however, their loyalty program didn’t take off over night and the staff had to put extra effort into creating a marketing strategy that effectively spread the word.
“It was a slow start,” she added. “We began by advertising it with signs in store and on our website, but weren’t seeing the response we wanted.”
From there, Tutalo and her staff have worked tirelessly to find creative ways to promote the program and, ultimately, gain new members.
“Because we have so many student employees, we started by getting them involved in the program. We wanted them to understand the benefits for themselves,” she explained. “Once they saw how great it was, they began recruiting others to join by going around the store and just explaining how it worked from their point of view. Word of mouth is really powerful and students listen to what their peers have to say, so it was extremely effective!”
Taking it a step further, she then built on this success by adding new media into the mix.
“We added QR codes to each employees’ name tag that linked to the loyalty page on our website,” Tutalo said. “That way, when they’re describing the program to customers, they can sign them up for the program on the spot just by scanning the code!”
For those who didn’t interact with an employee on the sales floor, cashiers were provided with flyers to hand out featuring the same QR code.
“It gave students a chance to take it home and easily sign up for it on their own time if they weren’t comfortable doing it in store,” she added.
These innovative images are placed on shelf talkers, too, to ensure students understand the value loyalty adds to their purchases.
“Our signs tell them the amount of points they’ll earn based on the price on the product,” she said. “We want them to see that added value when considering the purchase.”
As yet another option, the store also offers an interactive approach to advertising, with an extra register dedicated to loyalty member registration.
“We keep one MBS POS open and facing towards the customers,” she explained. “That way, students can literally sign up using the touch screen while they’re waiting in line to check out.”
Adding to the interaction, they’ve even incorporated loyalty into their buyback event.
“We had a bean bag toss at our buy and offered students 25 loyalty points for each bag they made through the board,” she said. “We’re trying everything we can to encourage students to sign up and it’s really paying off!”
With over a thousand participating members, Tutalo is actively achieving her goal of bringing student business back to the store.
“The students absolutely love it,” she added. “They’re coming back here because they feel like they’re getting an added value. It’s something they can’t find at all those other competitors and that’s important both to their satisfaction and to our success.”
Have questions about implementing a loyalty program? Don't hesitate to contact your MBS Representative.