Take a moment and visualize your typical customer.
On any given day, who would you expect to see walk through the door? Students, coming in to pick up books, supplies or a quick snack? Or, during slower times throughout the year, maybe you and your employees interact more with faculty or staff members, stopping in on their way to their offices or during a lunch break.
No matter which demographic you encounter most often, how many times in an average week are you actually serving shoppers you’ve never seen before?
The answer to this may vary depending on the size of your store and its location, but with the exception of occasions like family weekends, big games and graduation, many of your potential customers are probably on campus at least a few times a week.
One surprisingly simple way to boost sales is by successfully attracting a certain type of customer — namely, the repeat customer.
How to spot a potential ambassador
Why not begin at the beginning? New and incoming students (and their parents) are perfect candidates for establishing a relationship which will last their entire college careers — and possibly, even beyond.
Just think about it: The time they spend in college will most likely be different from anything they’ve experienced before (or will again). They may also be going through important changes physically, mentally and emotionally, and because of this transformation, they’ll probably have some strong feelings about your school and their experiences while attending. Your store is part of that experience — or at least it should be — so why not make it a positive, fun association?
Other likely candidates are student employees, faculty members and support staff. For all three of these customer groups, you have the added advantage of proximity.
One exception: Don’t rule out the one-time shoppers completely.
Although your overarching goal may be to create and maintain relationships with your regulars, if you and your staff consistently provide an exceptional experience, even customers who only make cameo appearances could help broaden your reach with word-of-mouth references.
Four ways to keep your customers engaged
The most basic way to increase sales and foot traffic can also have the most limited long-term effect on inspiring devotion from your customers: the garden-variety sale.
While offering a discount or sale price for a set duration of time can help you generate more revenue and clear out slow-moving merchandise, you probably won’t inspire any additional loyalty.
However, to maximize the effect you get, you may consider turning a one-time discount into a regular event. For example, you could choose a different product for a set day of the week and promote what the item will be through your social media accounts — or keep it a secret to generate even more excitement: Titan Shops Reveals Their Secret (Sales).
2. Promotions and in-store events:
To help foster that positive association we mentioned earlier, consider branching out beyond the typical sales transaction. Combining regular events like buyback or back-to-school rush with fun activities or giveaways will create great memories for your customers and lend your store a more visible presence.
Any time you follow through with a promotion, I think it shows; students could tell that we didn’t just slap a sale up for the holidays. This promotion supported our whole aim of having fun with our students while promoting our products and services.- Stacy Elofir, director, The University Store
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- UVU Bookstore Surprises Student with Free Textbooks
- Welcome New Students: Six Foreword Online Monthly Marketing Plans
3. Wish lists:
By offering registries or wish lists, you can expand your customer base even further. Depending on your store’s system, here’s one way this could play out:
Step 1: Advertise on social media, through email blasts and print materials that your store now offers gift registries:
- Example: Gift registries are perfect for a variety of occasions!
- First semester (register for textbooks, supplies, dorm accessories)
- Birthdays (spirit wear, electronics, novelties)
- Graduation (gifts, commemorative items)
Step 2: Customer comes into the store or goes online to create their registry
Step 3: Customer sends list to friends and family (or whoever — aka potential new customers)
Step 4: As items are purchased, list automatically updates and can even send thank you messages to the gift-givers
Step 5: Both recipient and giver are impressed with how easy the process was so they tell others
Result: Your customer gets the items he needs or wants, the gift-giver doesn’t have to waste time or energy figuring out what to purchase and your store gains access to potential new customers.
Plus, if the experience is simple and positive, everyone involved is more likely to become a repeat customer.
4. Loyalty program:
Loyalty programs are more popular than ever before. In fact, 83% of customers surveyed agreed that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with certain companies. And with existing customers spending 67 percent more than new ones, it makes sense that you’d want to keep those shoppers happy as well.
Because so many big-box stores and national chains offer their own loyalty programs, many customers have come to anticipate some sort of reward for purchasing items they would probably have purchased anyway.
If that scenario sounds a little familiar, it should. Your store sells a wide selection of merchandise that your customers need in order to be successful in their studies. Unfortunately, you also have plenty of online competition.
What those online vendors don’t have is the convenience factor, so if you play up your home field advantage and add a loyalty program, you can increase the likelihood that your customers will choose your store. After all, rewarding your customers for choosing to buy the items they need in order to succeed from your store is a win-win situation for everyone.