It is harder than ever to get and keep students’ attention. A fresh inventory selection with pop-up stores and consignment merchandise helps, but savvy stores like the UCLA Store also incorporates marketing and additional services that bring a steady stream of campus and community foot traffic.
“We recently brought in a program called Happy Returns. They handle the logistics for people who choose to buy items online but don’t want to go through the hassle of making an online return,” UCLA Store Associate Director of Marketing & Computer Store Rick Crowe said. “We provide students with a location where they can easily bring in items they want to return, and we take care of the rest. The store doesn’t get commission or revenue out of the program, but it does bring in people who otherwise wouldn’t come here. It’s been up and running for several months. We have gotten about 30 to 40 returns every month since May. Generally speaking, those customers haven’t been in our store before.”
In addition to increased foot traffic, this program also provides students with a convenient service that demonstrates the UCLA Store is there to support and help them.
“When I ran across the idea, I thought that it seemed like a very low-cost way to bring in more customers. Now that we have the program, people are happy with the service. Most of the comments we get are about how great and convenient it is,” Crowe said. “I hate buying online because I don’t want to return it. This mitigates that and it gives us the opportunity to expand our customer base.”
How can campus stores maximize social media and eCommerce?
It isn’t a secret that students spend a lot of time online. In the fast-moving online world, it can be even harder for campus stores to catch students’ attention and increase engagement. The UCLA Store also shared how they help their store stand out online.
“Our eCommerce site successfully reaches alumni and brings in customers who want spirit wear products. To help increase the site’s effectiveness, we recently started using a new email service provider called Bronto, which helps us manage our email lists better,” Crowe said. “It really works well with things like abandoned carts. We are starting to see a lot of revenue come from a targeted email series to people who add an item to their cart but don’t complete the checkout process. We then send an email nudging them to complete the transaction. It says something like ‘Hey, you forgot this. We would love to send this merchandise to you.’ Some people get an offer for free shipping if they complete their order. We have really experienced good traction with that. We track how those customers are converted and it has really been enlightening.”
The UCLA Store also works to streamline their social media efforts to better appeal to the current generation of students. They are building their online presence and brand in a fun and engaging way.
“We have been doing a much better job over the last year or so with Instagram and Facebook. Our focus has been on gaining followers and displaying our students’ lifestyle along with merchandise we want to promote,” Crowe said. “We are just starting to look at pushing commerce through social media sites. I think Instagram is going to be a great way to incorporate sales with social media. We are starting to tag our products and link to them. Our efforts are in their infancy right now, but we are tracking the conversions and seeing what methods work the best with our students.”
Preparing your campus store for the esports wave
The UCLA Store also looks ahead to the upcoming opportunities to engage with students and improve student relations. One of those opportunities is esports.
“We’re definitely working on how the store can best support esports programs on our campus. We hope to become a partner with those campus teams and programs. We would like to be the place students go to get their esports accessories,” Crowe said. “We are already starting to stock some items. Through some of our vendors, we have brought in things like gaming chairs and gaming desks. We want to help provide the ancillary products that esports gamers need to continue succeeding in the sport.”
The UCLA Store has taken an extra step beyond just selling esports products. They are also forming campus partnerships.
“We have partnered with people in the residence halls who run their own gaming labs. We are there to offer them our support. We might help them bring in a vendor who could throw some tchotchkes their way or help them promote their space,” Crowe said. “I think we have some strong partnerships in place, so we are going to continue to see where that leads. We have also done a field trip to UCI and some of the places locally that have taken the lead on esports in the campus store industry. It’s a pretty interesting opportunity.”