6 Major Marketing Lessons Businesses can learn from University Coop

For those of you who have been to post secondary, the university bookstore was probably a necessary evil for your academic life. As the only way for students to buy textbooks and school related merchandise, university shops may appear out-of-date and unviable for an online far reaching market. University Coop, however, puts all those assertions to rest.

Starting as just a local college bookstore for the University of Texas, University Coop is now a hugely successful online business that caters to both students and general population customers alike.

University Coop’s unwavering dedication to its target market combined with solid social media practices have contributed to its overwhelming success.

Six lessons e-tailers can learn from University Coop:

  1. Find balance between emotional appeals and good deals
  2. Optimize your website for mobile users
  3. Reward your loyal fans
  4. Use Pinterest to promote your business
  5. Make sure your website is socially-integrated
  6. Provide customers with an easy channel for feedback

Finding balance between emotional appeals and good deals

University Coop is primarily a store for the students and alumni of Texas University. The official Facebook business page reflects this by balancing updates about upcoming deals and promotions with stories about the school and its students.

These posts are emotional appeals that compel students, faculty, and alumni to participate in the discussion and also exposes them to the company’s business side. People who feel positively about these discussions and events will attribute these feelings to University Coop and increase their loyalty to the brand.

This balanced attitude also carries over to their official Twitter account.

What makes this work particularly well is that University Coop has direct access to their target market. Posts about the school resonate greatly with their target market, and are not likely to be ignored.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Talk about more than just your products on your social media platform. Mix in business related posts with posts that might interest your audience. On that note…
  • Find out what your fans love and give it to them. If your business is a sports bar, talk frequently about the latest news in sports. If your business is a bookstore, talk about promising new releases or discuss old favourites. Keep your fans engaged with what they care about.
  • Include a call-to-action. Give engaged fans an outlet to your store or exclusive access to deals to mobilize your fanbase and convert them into leads.

Optimize your site for mobile users

University Coop’s mobile site works flawlessly and is easy to use even for small screens. Studies have shown that many users rely on their phones during purchases in order to compare prices. If they can’t find that information because your website is not optimized, they will quickly give up and shop somewhere else.

University Coop goes one step further by having an actual mobile app available on the Apple App Store and on the Android Marketplace. Dedicated users who download the app will be able to directly interact with your store at all times, making access to your mobile store much more streamlined.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Optimize your mobile site!  With rising mobile usage across almost all demographics, having a mobile site is becoming more important than ever.
  • When optimizing, ensure the visuals, text, and buttons are sufficiently large enough to be legible even from a tiny screen. Be sure to double check how well your site works on a smartphone before going live.
  • Develop a mobile app. Customers who use the app can become much more engaged with technology like QR codes, location based notification, and a reminder of your store every time they look at their phone.

Reward your loyal fans

One of the most well-known aspects of University Coop is that all students and faculty can enter their student IDs on the site to receive a rebate on all of their purchases. Participants would then be eligible to earn back up to 10% of all purchases made during the school year.

This increases the brand loyalty of your followers, increases switching costs for competitors, and boosts overall sales. This also allows University Coop to keep a comprehensive customer list for any promotional efforts in the future.

Of course, unless your business also happens to be an official university store, it is difficult to perfectly recreate the exact same situation.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Implement a loyalty program. Give your users the opportunity to get discounts off their purchases in exchange for their contact information
  • Increase switching costs. Provide users with free shipping, exclusive content, or a more streamlined service for becoming a member of your site so they have a reason to come back next time.

Use Pinterest to promote your business

University Coop has a strong showing on Pinterest, which works well with such a visual industry like fashion. A number of product lines are highlighted on their Pinterest board, which can expose older items without relying on advertising.

Here, the prices of the items are right on the pins, with the image leading the user straight to the shop page on their main website. As such, University Coop’s Pinterest acts as a secondary catalogue to their products.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Have a business presence on Pinterest if you have not done so already. Put your products on display with easy to see pictures and ensure they are neatly categorized.
  • Link products directly back to their associated purchase page, not your main website. If a customer clicks on a photo of your product on Pinterest, but has to navigate your main site to find the same item, they may quickly lose interest.
  • Make sure your products aren’t the only thing on your business’ Pinterest board. Look for common interests with your audience and pin things they might find interesting.
  • Link your main website back to your Pinterest board. This caters to customers who may want to pin up products they like to their own boards.

Make sure your Website is Socially-Integrated

One of the best way to make use of your social networks is to integrate them. Fully integrating all your social media networks together with your website can lead to increased traffic on your website and higher levels of engagement (through likes and content) on your social media sites.

University Coop does this by including a social media bar (as seen below) that links users to any of their applicable social media sites.

University Coop really excels in this case by using a custom-built social media bar that links to their mobile apps as well. This particular graphic is effective because it is simple while remaining consistent with the visual theme of the website.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Integrate all your social networks together to cross-promote your brand, especially during promotional campaigns.
  • Avoid copy and pasting the same message several times for all your different networks. Customize or tailor your content for different channels so users do not feel like they are receiving second-hand content.

Provide customers with an easy channel for feedback

Giving customers a channel to give feedback is crucial for online businesses. If there is no way for customers to voice their concerns or complaints to the company, they make complain elsewhere. They may decide to spread negative word of mouth about your brand to others instead of contacting you about the concern or issue.

University Coop has a standard feedback site that many online businesses have nowadays, as well as support emails and phone numbers. This is standard for many companies and should be present in all business websites.

However, University Coop goes the extra step by providing 1-on-1 live chat on every page of their website. Users can quickly and easily discuss any concerns they might have with a real person, which greatly improves the customer service experience.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Don’t make it hard for customers to provide feedback. Deal with any concerns or issues head-on before they grow.
  • Be timely with your responses. If having a 1-on-1 client chat isn’t viable for your company, be sure to reply quickly to customer feedback via email and social media.

Setting up a comprehensive social media promotion campaign has never been easier. Take a look at  Wishpond’s social media apps today and see for yourself!


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