Foreword Online

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Why Gift Registries Work for College Stores

Posted by Kate Seat on 4/6/16 12:00 AM
Topics: customer loyalty

When you think of the word “registry,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you associate gift registries with major life events like weddings or the arrival of a new baby. Registries are a convenient way to let loved ones know what items are needed without having to explicitly ask for them, which is why they work so well for those big rites of passage.

While most of your customers are probably not expecting a child or planning a wedding, many of them are in the midst of one of the most critical transitional periods in their lives. Odds are good, because of these changes, that they’d appreciate a timely gift or care package from home. By providing a gift registry or a similar type of wish list, you can make it easy for them to get the items they need and even potentially attract some new customers.

Who are registries right for?

The beginning and end of a college career are perfect times for your customers to create a registry, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to only marketing to incoming freshmen and soon-to-be graduates.

Birthdays, gift-giving holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day or “just because” occasions are all times when having a wish list to refer to could make the whole process much easier for the giver, and help keep sales in your store.

Other candidates for gift registries include:

  • Sports fans
  • Athletes
  • Greek life members
  • Alumni
  • Students with supply-intensive majors like art or design
  • … and just about any other repeat customer you encounter!

What types of items could make the list?

  • Spirit wear: sweatshirts, hats, T-shirts
  • Greek Life merchandise: apparel, water bottles, lanyards
  • Dorm accessories: lamps, rugs, organizational items, posters
  • Art supplies: paints, brushes, canvases, pencils
  • Electronics: devices, accessories
  • Textbooks

Why focus on repeat customers? Big sales may draw in the casual shopper, but gift registries, like loyalty programs, are about building relationships. Once families find out how easy it is to go online or visit your store to see specific items their students need or want, they may be more likely to a) make repeat purchases and b) to stop into your store when they visit campus.

Not only that, but it saves them time and prevents them from having to guess what to buy.

Don’t forget about care packages!

If your store doesn’t already offer care packages, now is a great time to consider adding them. While not as personalized as a registry list, care packages make a thoughtful gift -- especially as an easy option for long-distance shoppers. And because you can price these at the total value for the included merchandise, they can also be a simple way to clear out extra merchandise without a loss in sales.

A few possibilities for potential packages include:

  • Get Well Soon: greeting card with personalized message, tissues, cough drops, OTC medicine, individual soup bowls
  • Good Luck on Finals: blue books, energy drinks, meal bars, pens, snacks or candy
  • Happy Birthday: birthday card with a personalized message, candy, novelty items, bookstore gift card

Putting it into practice

The low-tech approach: At the most basic level, your wish lists could simply be a paper checklist that students fill out. You’ll have to decide whether you’ll file them in the store, have them mailed home or create a template so they can be emailed to whomever the customer chooses.

Integration with your store’s system: If your current system allows, having an online, automatically-updating list will make offering gift registries convenient for your employees and more appealing to your customers. Depending on its capabilities, you may even be able to choose the name for your registry program, set it up to automatically send thank you messages and allow customers to choose their privacy settings for their lists.

Promotion is key

In a recent Foreword Online story, the staff at The Book Mark at Gustavus Adolphus College used Facebook and Twitter to share a spur-of-the-moment Valentine’s Day promotion. They were surprised when parents and family members called the store to order candy bouquets for their students after seeing the posts online.

While they hadn’t anticipated this response, those social shares ended up being critical to the success of the promotion — and helped the store sell through all of their bouquets in just three days.

In addition to using social media, you could also

  • Work with your alumni or admissions departments to coordinate email blasts
  • Advertise in local newspapers
  • Reach out to your Greek council and athletic departments
  • Participate in or sponsor on-campus events

Bonus round

This marketing plan provides everything you need to offer a wish list-inspired promotion at your store, no matter what system you use. Check it out:

build Loyalty from the Beginning with a Win The Window Contest



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