Class Ups Bookstore Foot and Online Traffic, Sales

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Partnering with Follett Bookstore Management, this fall’s Marketing Research Practicum cohort designed and implemented a strategic campaign that increased the SJU Bookstore’s Facebook “Likes,” website visits, store visits and overall sales. Follett, SJU Bookstore’s corporate partner, has agreed to continue working with future Practicum cohorts because of the success of the project, and suggests the project’s potential to go national.

The campaign, a student contest to determine the coolest dorm room on campus – dubbed the “Flyest Nest on Hawk Hill” – required voters and participants to visit the Bookstore’s Facebook page as well as the store on 54th Street. Overall, the class generated 4,000 unique visits to the Facebook page, 1,200 new “Likes,” and on the final day for voting, 250 physical visits to the 54th Street location.

“Our objective was to create awareness on campus that the bookstore is there for more than just textbook sales and rentals,” says Michael Solomon, Ph.D., director of the Center for Consumer Research and professor of marketing. “A lot of students, freshmen especially, come to the bookstore during the first week of school, buy their course books, and don’t use it further.”

Each semester, Solomon identifies projects for his Research Practicum students to work on with actual companies. Throughout the course they tackle a marketing problem that allows them to put their classroom learning into practice, while working on an issue the sponsor identifies and getting feedback from company representatives. Follett has participated for three semesters.

The 15 senior marketing majors focused on drawing students first to the Bookstore’s online resources, by encouraging students to upload pictures of their dorm rooms to Facebook. Working with Residence Life, they garnered 32 contestants through promotions developed in class, including a “dorm storm” that sent student pairs recruiting in each residence hall, a balloon drop orchestrated in Campion Student Center and announcements via social media.

“They had to utilize all kinds of media to creatively engage the students,” says Solomon. “Every time they engaged someone, they were touching them as customers, too.”

The 32 contestants faced three rounds of voting, the first two hosted online to encourage visits to the webpage, and the final held in person at the SJU Bookstore on the Friday before Thanksgiving. After each round, two voters were chosen at random to receive $100 Bookstore gift cards; the winner of the competition took home a $600 gift card. Overall, 1,700 votes were cast, and Howard Taylor, a Follett representative, reported that the sales of November 2011 increased significantly from those of November 2010.

“Campus bookstores are competing with places like Target and Walmart, especially when it comes to dorm room supplies students don’t always consider that their bookstores carry,” says Solomon. “By focusing the contest on the ‘best room,’ this contest promotes bookstores as a convenient resource.”

At present, Follett plans to continue working with the Research Practicum cohort enrolled for spring semester, but the hope is that the “Flyest Nest on Hawk Hill” competition can be adapted for other campuses.

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