College stores serve their campus community as a retail and social hub. From the moment students are accepted all the way to graduation, the store is a constant presence in students’ college life. However, what happens after graduation?
Once students graduate, their perception of the school quickly turns into a memory of what it was like to be on campus. Positive correlations result in an active and dedicated alumni and donor base. Negative correlations lead to disengagement. That’s why colleges and universities must foster alumni relationships and reinforce school pride.
Endowments and donations provide greater financial stability, but timing is important with fundraising. Finding natural unobtrusive ways to extend the student-school relationship into an alumni-school relationship can produce big results later. One way to establish these relationships is to build on the college store’s existing rapport.
The college store is a natural outlet for alumni to continue to show their school pride and support their alma mater. No matter where their career takes them, alumni can maintain their connection to your school through your college store’s eCommerce site and mobile app. There, they can collect the school-branded merchandise they want, allowing them to display their school pride at home, in the office or during the big game.
With a great alumni and parent communication strategy, college stores can continue to reinforce loyalty and build an off-campus customer base.
Email is a powerful marketing tool. Timely school-branded emails from the bookstore can keep alumni and parents informed about the major campus events and provide a clear way to get high-quality, logoed merchandise. By providing alumni and parents exclusive deals and a customized loyalty program, stores can strengthen this connection and the school brand.
Social media is a great way to reach people of all ages, but especially those that fall into Gen X, millennial and Gen Z demographics. Social media provides a simple way to connect with your alumni, parents and fans.
These online platforms let schools quickly pass along exciting campus information and spark nostalgia. It is also an easy way to advertise to a specific, targeted audience and drive website traffic. In fact, 73 percent of consumers report that they want to see social media posts about discounts and sales.
The campus store also fosters relationships through campus partnerships. By working with the alumni association and with the organizers of parents’ weekend or other parent-focused events, they can provide special discounts and merchandise that makes everyone feel like they are a part of the campus community.
Building these authentic relationships early will boost later development efforts and show every generation that they are valued by the school.