It’s no secret retail stores are closing left and right; and higher education campuses are not immune to this trend. According to the research recently released by Credit Suisse, there will be 8,640 stores closing in 2018. While many of these closings are expected, some of these brands are quite surprising.
What does this have to do with higher education retail? The answer is simple. It has everything to do with it. Bookstores are facing many of the same challenges on a daily basis. However, they don’t have to go at it alone.
Higher education retailers need to incorporate operational best practices into their routine to ensure they are continuously adapting to their surroundings. This will aid in the prevention of becoming extinct.
1) Network with the best of them!
Learn from peers and be willing to listen to what others are saying. This could be anyone from within the higher education experience or from outside the industry as well. Today’s consumer wants to purchase goods with the “easy button”. Don’t be afraid to pick up new ideas or processes and try applying them to a different business setting. It is important to pick up the phone and connect with people that are blazing the trails of retail innovation.
2) Build bridges across the campus.
You can no longer sit in your ivory tower and expect that “if you build it, they will come.” Produced in 1989, this concept from the movie, Field of Dreams, went extinct shortly thereafter. Create reasons for people to come and experience your retail space. This starts with building alliances within your faculty, student groups and athletic department. Creating strong relationships with these important campus influencers will help to meet their retail needs; develop strong advocates and often times they will become your best customers. There is revenue right across that bridge if you are brave enough to cross it.
3) The Internet Train has Left the Station.
The world of eCommerce is the way everyone is shopping now. It is imperative that your online store matches your brick and mortar and there are financial consequences of not getting on the internet train. You can no longer say, “we don’t have the talent to be online”, or “we can’t compete with those big online retailers”. You need a killer online website that is responsive in design, can handle course material pre-orders, uses streamlined checkout process and includes a layered security encryption process. Don’t forget to apply digital marketing practices and making sure your digital products are SEO optimized. These are must-haves in today’s retail environment.
4) Be competitive.
Consumers are more informed now than ever regarding pricing and buying options for course materials. Crux research shows that 74% of all students start their transactions on a retailer’s website. Are you converting all of these into sales? Even if you have a state-of-the-art website, if you’re not converting those consumers into a sale, then it is fair to say you could be more competitive. In order to provide the most competitive pricing, your store should be dynamically sourcing the marketplace, allowing you to get as much used book inventory as possible. Additionally, make sure to offer a robust rental program that shares price comparisons and price matching.
5) Make memorable experiences.
“Retailtainment” isn’t just a buzz word anymore. Some of the best retail stores are providing an entertainment factor to the shopping experience. This can be a very modern store design, a restaurant inside the retail destination, free games or even live music. The most important question to ask is “Would I want to come and shop here?”. If it’s not in the budget to redesign your space, creating a modern shopping experience, then you at least should be providing a world-class service experience. Your staff should be helping consumers in a way that gives them something good to talk about and a reason to return.
It’s time to forget the idea “This is how we’ve always done it.” There are many opportunities to partner with industry organizations to help modernize and boost your business. If you are willing to adapt to your surroundings your store will end up on the winning side of this retail consumer equation.
Kara Bunde-Dunn serves as the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales Support and Client Experience at Nebraska Book Company.