Undergraduate Students Fight the Battle in the War for Guests for $2,500
May 15, 2013— Forty two undergraduate students found themselves developing a battle strategy this past spring semester—the battle between brick and mortar and the internet. Reconnaissance took place in Professor Camille Abbruscato’s Marketing Strategy classes in collaboration with the Target Corporation.
Known as the Target Case Study Competition, students compete in teams on a different real-world business challenge every semester for $2,500 in scholarship money. The competition was initiated by Professor Abbruscato in 2007 and has been occurring every semester since its inception. This semester’s challenge was purposefully selected by Abbruscato. “The case is for Target, but the dynamics of what is occurring today with technology, specifically e-commerce, social media, and smart phones, is affecting all industries. Having the students work on such a timely case will provide them with valuable information and insights they can use regardless of their career path.”
For Target, the competitive landscape of retail commerce is changing as fast as you can download an app. Technology is forcing everyone to revisit who their competition is, and how to maintain market share. Given the emergence of online retailing, who is Target’s competition? Which is the preferred method of shopping among consumers? What do consumers shop for online? In sto res? What attributes are most important? Least important? What economic factors currently influence purchase behavior? These were just some of the many questions students worked to find answers to in order to develop competitive advantages for Target and help them maintain their position as the second largest retailer in the United States.
Students started the project early in the semester scouring the University’s business databases for industry reports, competitive performance, academic and new articles, and consumer trends. Armed with this information, they were then able to collect their own data via focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires. Collectively, over 1,000 surveys were administered via online and in-person methods.
Although each team had their own unique way of presenting the data and their recommendations to a team of Target executives, there were many consistencies. In particular, Amazon.com was the preferred online retailer mainly due to product selection and price. Interestingly, although Target has their own no fee credit/debit card (the Red Card), which affords account holders with a 5% discount on all merchandise and free shipping, the majority of respondents were unaware of this, yet verbalized an appreciation for the “free shipping” option from Amazon.com (Amazon Prime) which is only “free” after a $50 fee. Other consistencies among the data were electronics and books ranking as the most frequently purchased products online, with clothing and groceries being the least purchased. The speed, ease of use, and content of websites ranked high in importance, as well as the availability of an “app”, site to store shipping, and the ability to “see and touch” products before purchase. Known as “show rooming”, shoppers go into retail stores to do just this, then go home and place their order with an online merchant. “Half the battle is getting consumers into retails stores”, says Abbruscato, “now the challenge is getting them to complete their purchases there.”
As a result of the data, teams developed comprehensive marketing plans offering creative and strategic recommendations to decrease “show rooming”, accentuate Target’s unique characteristics as both a brick and mortar and online retailer, create more interactive/ relationship building marketing programs, and to utilize technology in the form of an improved website and app.
Consistent with past competitions, students walked away feeling energized and fulfilled. “This assignment gave us real world experience while still being in a classroom environment, “ as expressed by the team of Christian Bautista, Nicole Massa, Kathie Ng and Franceso Arciuli. “ We were given the opportunity to apply all of our marketing skills to a Fortune 500 company. We learned the value of teamwork and time management working on such a comprehensive project. We gained valuable life and career skills that we could not attain solely through traditional teaching curricula.”
Although all 42 students gave it their best, it was the team of Kevin Kronrad, Mary Parhiala, Claire Smith, and Ryan Ong that walked away with the $2,500 scholarship. All of the Target executives present commented on how professional and thorough the student presentations were, and in particular, how they all used facts to support their recommendations. “It was evident all of the teams put a great deal of effort into this assignment”, said Kimberly Dowdy, Campus Recruiter for Target, “but we are all just overwhelmed with the winning team’s recommendations because Target just recently made the decision to implement so many of the ideas they presented today! This truly demonstrates how well they understood Target’s mission and culture, as well as who our guests are. ”
“It was really great being able to work with Target, “ said Kevin Kronrad, a student from the winning team. “It is such a large and influential company in the market today, so being able to become involved with their marketing strategy and actually work to get our ideas heard was a huge honor, not to mention being able to put this on our resumes.”
A special thank you to Manny London, Amy Milligan, Carl Allocca, Peter Capriello, Robert Ettl, Faith Caton, and Kimberly Dixon for attending the competition and supporting our students.