Sarah Castro and Keli Hazelton 2015-09-10 11:01:15
PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN YOUR STORE’S LAYOUT, DISPLAYS, AND MERCHANDISE BUNDLES TO MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION ON PEOPLE WHO MAY BECOME LIFETIME CUSTOMERS OF YOUR BRAND. During fall semester, when thousands of incoming students walk through our store, we can’t help but think of the possibilities to connect and engage with our newest guests. As students navigate their new environment, they’re enthusiastic about shopping for their textbooks and school supplies, spirit gear, and learning technologies. Most importantly, they’re excited to establish their identities in their new campus community. TAP INTO EXCITEMENT The excitement and buzz of fall rush starts as early as the previous December, when our buyers plan their back-to-school orders by looking for new and enticing products for our students. Summer freshman orientation is the perfect venue for introducing our brand to incoming freshmen and transfers—and fostering their loyalty to the SDSU Bookstore brand from the start. Much cross-departmental planning is involved to get ready to welcome our new guests, including buying, marketing, receiving, and sales-floor staff. Floor layout and product placement play a critical role during freshman orientation: It’s our time to invite, introduce, and make a lasting impact on more than 7,000 new customers. These new students are making decisions that will influence the rest of their college years, and it’s important for our brand to make a resonant first impression. ORIENTATION LAYOUT Our sales-floor planning process starts with a Microsoft Visio Map, drawn to scale, that shows the entire layout of every area of the store, including fixtures. The Visio map is important to devising the layout, identifying our fixture needs, and highlighting key products in all areas. During orientation, we highlight two promotions: current hardware bundles from our Aztecnology department and our top-selling tackle-twill sweatshirt as a bundle with our annual daily planner calendar. Every area in the store except for our textbook department is remerchandised for orientation. In apparel, we showcase the latest trends and introduce students to our newest Nike Sideline gear in our Nike Shop just in time for football season. Textbooks are a destination product that remains on our second floor with supplies. We use our flex space on the main floor to feature the daily planner and sweatshirt bundle in a mass display of fixtures highlighting all colors, as well as men’s and women’s options. We also highlight SDSU Family merchandise in all areas of the store for parents who are accompanying their students and eager to show their own SDSU pride. Large banners and graphics featuring models from our campus community emphasize the bundle promotions throughout the store. INNOVATION IS KEY Keeping in mind that these new customers are eager to be part of Aztec campus life, we saw a huge opportunity this year to partner with the SDSU Alumni Association. The association set up a table in the store during all the orientation dates to promote and introduce the Aztec Proud project, which raises money for the SDSU Student Scholarship Fund to help students in need. For a donation of $10, students receive an Aztec Proud shirt and lanyard. Every one of our cashiers and sales-floor staffers were well-trained on the details of the project and they all enthusiastically wore Aztec Proud tees to promote the initiative. This was a tremendous success: About one out of every four students who made a purchase at our store during orientation also made a donation to Aztec Proud. Not only did students and parents feel they were giving back to the campus community, but they also established a philanthropic connection with the university that we hope will last a lifetime. BTS RUSH LAYOUT With orientations still underway, preparation for the BTS rush setup begins with all of our rush fixtures being loaded in our basement with school-related supplies ready for our main floor setup. Over the years, we’ve customized this setup to be visually powerful and easy to navigate. The supplies department on the second floor is brought downstairs on a smaller scale to facilitate interaction with students and BTS products. We set up 50 fixtures in the center of our store, creating a “maze” of key items—90% of them BTS products—that student traffic can flow through easily. Shoppers also encounter many impulse items in the BTS queue. Among the products they see next to basic school supplies and reference materials are Kate Spade notebooks, Herschel backpacks, and sustainable items. Since we know competitive pricing is vital, students will also find a large display of our value-priced notebooks. STUDENTS WANT AN EXPERIENCE Our associate director of marketing, Ben Eisenstein, sums up our approach this way: “We want to be the first and last stop for our newest guests. These incoming freshmen are full of school spirit and expect more than just textbooks and tees. They want an experience. “Through the next four years, we will connect with the class of 2019 through in-store events and celebrations; themed layouts and competitions for football and basketball season; and, finally, GradFest and GradNite, in which we celebrate these students’ hard-earned achievements. “We consider the SDSU Bookstore to be the spirit hub of campus. But we can’t just ask students to take our word for it. We have to earn that distinction each day with rich experiences—and it all starts at orientation and back-to-school rush.” Sarah Castro is corporate merchandiser and Keli Hazelton is creative manager for Aztec Shops Ltd., San Diego State University, San Diego, CA.
Published by NACS. View All Articles.