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Three RPI Teams Win 2010 Price Chopper Ultimate Innovation Competition Awards

Lally Faculty sponsor Jason Kuruzovich coaches internet marketing class teams to win over $13,000 in cash prizes.

Price Chopper’s annual Ultimate Innovation Competition awards a total of $30,000 to Capital region undergraduate and graduate students for innovative ideas that can be applied to retail operations, supply chain management, marketing and human resources. Entries for the 2010 competition focused on two themes: “How can we help you?” and “Building Connections with Customers and Associates.” Fifty-two student teams entered the competition from nine institutions. Twenty-three teams made the semifinals, and seven finalists won awards ranging from $1750 to $7500.

Three Rensselaer teams won awards in the final round of competition. The teams were all made up of students in Professor Jason Kuruzovich’s MGMT 4965/6965--Internet Marketing, a Lally school course that combines undergraduates, MBA, and MS students. The Rensselaer teams’ entries all used technology to improve service and customer relationships. The winning concepts were: Price Chopper Facebook Application ($7500 first place award); Price Drop Alerts ($5000 award) and MyPantry ($1250 award). “I am very proud of all of our Rensselaer student teams and I’m very impressed by their performance,” said Kuruzovich. “In the Internet Marketing class, we examine the many ways that businesses can utilize technology to connect with their customers. The Price Chopper Ultimate Innovation Competition was a great opportunity for students to gain real world experience and to contribute to innovation processes of an established local business. Price Chopper’s interest in finding new ways to serve their customers through technology was a great fit with the class objectives.”

Kuruzovich also noted that competitions such as the Price Chopper Innovation Challenge and the Google Online Marketing Challenge offer students the opportunity apply techniques that they learn in his class to practical, real-world marketing challenges.

Darren Linkstrom ’10, of the winning Facebook Application team, described the highlights of the competition: “By far the coolest part of the competition was presenting in the board rooms at Price Chopper’s brand new headquarters in Schenectady. There were about six or seven of the top leaders of the company in the room, and they stopped us numerous times to clarify points we were making. As a team, that was the thing we took away from it the most. As we move on to becoming young professionals at the various companies we are going to, that is what it’s going to be like. It was very different from a traditional presentation during class where you run through the slides, and then answer some soft questions at the end. Here, we actually had to halt our presentation, defend our point, and then pick right back up.”

Linkstrom added “I think the key to us winning was that we came prepared to answer some tough questions, because we knew what the weaknesses of our project were. As opposed to coming in thinking we had the perfect idea and then getting stumped on tough questions, we were impartial when analyzing our proposal and admitted there were issues. We then prepared rebuttals and were ready when the questions came. This is something I know I will bring with me to my job at The Hartford, and will use throughout my career.”

Linkstrom described the reaction of the Facebook Application team when they found out about the $7500 award. “It felt great to win. As last semester seniors, it’s hard to be motivated and get excited about class, but this competition did it for us. We put a lot of work into this, and to get rewarded was great. We all walked away with $1,350, and all of us except Brian are moving into apartments out of the area, so I’m sure this money will be used to buy furniture and to decorate the apartments.”

The Winning Concepts

Price Chopper Facebook Application ($7500 Winner) presented by Darren Linkstrom ‘10, Emily McDonell ‘10, Vinny Ahuja ‘10, Brian Wang ‘10 and Nick Profita ’10. The Facebook application concept leverages Price Chopper’s already strong Facebook presence--a page with almost 24,000 fans. The application allows Facebook users to link their Price Chopper AdvantEdge loyalty card to Price Chopper’s Facebook application, where they can receive targeted ads based on their in-store purchase behavior. This enables users to receive low-cost, customized ads that they will most likely use.

Price Drop Alerts ($5000 Winner) presented by Elizabeth Azeizat ’10, Madgledis Almanza MBA ’10, Michael Bruce MBA ’10, Adam T. Jankauskas ’10 and Gregory Roundfield ’10. This concept builds on Price Chopper´s ability to send information to customers according to customers’ preferences. From the products discounted every week, each customer will only receive info regarding products for which they have signed-in to receive an alert. Customers can receive alerts on cellphones, blackberries or via email.

MyPantry ($1250 Winner) was presented by Patrick Booton ’10, Aimee Catroppa ’10, Catherine Chou ’10, Shreya Desai ’10, and Josh Goldenberg ’10. MyPantry integrates with Price Chopper’s AdvantEdge loyalty card to allow consumers to generate electronic shopping lists, recipes and meal plans that can sync with users’ calendars and food preferences.
In 2009’s Ultimate Innovation Competition, a Lally team, also advised by Professor Kuruzovich, won $3000 for their ‘green’ virtual couponing concept.

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