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Market research students gain hands-on experience with Ollie’s

Market research students gain hands-on experience with Ollie’s Bargain Outlet

Written by Jojo King ‘20

messiah students at Ollie's

One of the many exciting things about being a Messiah College student is the opportunities that are offered in and out of the classroom. Faculty work hard to make sure students are given hands-on opportunities for learning throughout their entire college experience. This past semester was no exception. For one assignment in Dr. Tracy Troutman’s Marketing Research class, students dig into a company’s marketing strategy, studying ways they can better serve their customers. This assignment typically culminates in a class presentation at the end of the semester. But this semester was different.

During the fall 2019 semester, Troutman’s class was approached by an off-campus business, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Alumna Brittany Balmer ’19 and Alumnus Dan Haines ’84, both employees of Ollie’s, approached the class to help with marketing research for their company. Ollie’s was seeking to learn more about consumer opinions on their organization. The class hit the ground running, having no idea the impact they would make for the company.

Split up into three groups, the students completed surveys—both in-store and online—and focus groups. They sought feedback about store layout, whether interactions with employees were positive or negative, website experience, social media presence and more. Through this surveying, they were able to learn more about conversion rates (how many people walked into the store vs. how many people actually bought something) for the store and looked into how they could make these numbers better. 

Messiah students present to Ollie's executive team in a glass boardroom

As always, at the end of the semester, the class presented their findings to their peers and their professor. However, this presentation was a little different because both Balmer and Haines were in attendance to hear the findings. They were so excited about what the class discovered that they requested the students present once more—this time to the executive team for Ollie’s. 

Last month, James Chopka (junior), Hunter Brindle (senior), Tafadzwa Chakala (junior) and Alexandra Chea (senior) made their way to Ollie’s to present their findings.

“They were well prepared, poised, confident, and answered their questions thoughtfully,” said Tracy Troutman, adjunct business professor. “They exhibited executive presence.”

Ollie’s was so impressed with the class’s work that they will be implementing some of their ideas in the near future to make their stores more consumer-friendly for their shoppers.

Dr. Andrew Babyak, chair of Messiah’s Department of Business, added his praise for the students’ work, saying, “It is truly remarkable that a class project for a market research class was so well received by local Ollie’s leaders that they had them present in front of their executive team! These experiences do not happen very often and I am incredibly proud of each of them.” 

The dedication and work from both students and faculty has not gone unnoticed. This is just one example of how students at Messiah College have been able to make an impact throughout their community. In response to this fall semester project, the Spring 2020 Marketing Research class for will continue this project in hopes of refining and growing the consumer experience at Ollie’s.

Learn more about the marketing major at Messiah College.