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Bentley Undergrads Team Up with Online Retailer Shoebuy.com to Help Company’s Marketing Goals Shine
For most students, final exam week equates to long nights in the library, putting the finishing touches on term papers and cramming for tests. While this holds true for students at Bentley University, six undergraduate students found themselves in a somewhat unusual place on the last Monday afternoon of the semester: a corporate boardroom at Shoebuy.com, ready to present their end-of-semester marketing plan to a panel of employees, including the CEO.
As part of a corporate immersion directed study course, led by Senior Marketing Lecturer Perry Lowe, Amanda McCormick ’17, Sean Warneke ’17, Amanda Acampora ’17, Ana Tantum ’17, Riley Hynes ’19, and Monica Redondo Moro ’19 spent their fall semester working directly with company executives to come up with a comprehensive marketing plan for ELEVTD.com, Shoebuy’s luxury footwear and apparel sister site that launched in fall 2016. Shoebuy.com sells more than 800 brands, with over one million items spanning footwear, clothing and accessories.
Real-life learning, C-suite feedback
The Shoebuy project is just one of the most recent examples of Bentley’s corporate immersion courses, which offer a hands-on approach to learning by bringing actual marketing problems from real organizations into the classroom. Founded by Lowe, these innovative courses have been a hallmark of the Bentley curriculum for more than 20 years, and are built on the belief that the most impactful learning comes from real-world situations.
“Opportunities like this corporate immersion class help students to take on a real-world and applicable experience while still on campus,” shares Lowe. “The six students in this course were held to the standard of full-time, entry-level ShoeBuy employees and learned the difference between academic rigor and corporate rigor.”
During each class session, students met with Vice President of Brand Marketing and Creative Alex Proelss MS ’11 to get real-time feedback on their analysis of ELEVTD’s website design, functionality and user experience. The team was also tasked with recommending future brand promotion opportunities and social media campaigns that wrapped up into actionable marketing plans for both websites.
“The Bentley students on this project gave both the Shoebuy and ELEVTD brands a fresh perspective. They were innovative and collaborative, generating valuable ideas about how best to stay relevant to our target customer while growing brand awareness and the business as a whole,” said Proelss. “We look forward to implementing some of the students’ ideas, particularly as ELEVTD continues to expand.”
In addition to working with the undergraduates in a directed study, ShoeBuy also participated in a graduate course of 45 students. This project focused primarily on ShoeBuy’s curated shops and business strategy to deliver unique and tailored shopping experiences within its many product categories.
While Bentley offers formalized corporate immersion courses to both undergraduate and graduate students each semester, the Shoebuy project was available to undergraduate students as a directed study. Directed study courses differ from the traditional classroom model in that students get to work closely with their professor in a small group setting on a specific project.
“Participating in a directed study allowed me to engage in a more dynamic academic experience than in a traditional classroom setting,” says Warneke. “I was able to leverage my business skills developed during my previous class experiences and apply them in a team setting, which is an incredibly valuable opportunity for college students.”
Students also note that taking part in a directed study course allowed them to dig deeper into topics that might only be highlighted at a high level in a traditional class.
“I have put together marketing budgets in a lot of my courses at Bentley, but working specifically on Shoebuy’s ELEVTD.com project gave us more insight into how the process actually works in the real world,” shares McCormick. “Each of our projects had a set budget that was allocated to us by Shoebuy’s corporate team, so we really had to pay attention to how much we were proposing to spend in regards to our recommendations.”
Lowe reached out to all undergraduate students over the summer and invited them to apply to work with Shoebuy through a formal application process. Students were required to submit a resume and cover letter just as they would for an internship or job opportunity.
Both the undergraduate and graduate students are eager to see which of their ideas get implemented by the company in the coming months.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.