November 29, 2016

Redefining the Role of Your Campus Bookstore

The bookstore’s role on campus is changing. While the bookstore has always been an integral revenue stream for colleges and universities, it has seen a steady decline over the last decade. With the introduction of more technology, the bookstore has become less relevant for a new generation of students.

Once upon a time, the bookstore was the only source for educational material. Now, with the advent of online shopping, students have a plethora of options when it comes to getting their books.

The campus bookstore was also the place to go to get insignia gear. But now, with literally hundreds of shopping choices right at their fingertips, what does the store have left to offer?

So what’s a campus bookstore to do? Add products other than books? Add ecommerce and other technology to attract Gen Z into their store? Improve the ambiance so it’s a hip and fun place to hang out?

While these are great, viable options, it all comes down to one question. How do you make the changes needed to keep up with Gen Z and make your store a destination for more than just books?

Here are some best practices for redefining the role of your bookstore:

Listen and Implement

Campus bookstores are facing more competition than ever, and Gen Z has certain expectations. As part of that, they expect retailers to cater to their wants while also listening to them.

Now, the competition isn’t just for their dollars, but for their attention as well. As a result, it’s not enough for any retailer to maintain the status quo.

The bookstore, like any other retailer, has the opportunity to create a strong brand experience by listening and responding to their customers. Whether it’s the demand for specific product line or a destination that creates a unique experience, Gen Z is sending a loud and clear message about what they want.

One way to start to address this is by asking for customer feedback. Retailers – even the campus bookstore – need to take the opportunity to hear what their customers have to say.

Gathering this feedback can be done in a variety of ways such as via social media channels, an in-store survey, or point of sale data collection. But whatever the method, it needs to be easy. Gen Z wants to tell you what they are thinking.

Learn from Best Practice Retailers

Bigger retailers have greater resources to understand the needs and shopping habits of Gen Z, so take a page from best practice retailers that perform well with this audience.

Gen Z has money to spend, and they care about where they spend it. They are looking for brands that aren’t only authentic, but also something that lines up with their values. They want a brand who represents who they are.

Kate Spade, which is well-known as a luxury brand, performs well with Gen Z. While it may seem counterintuitive that you have teenagers spending big dollars on things like purses, there’s a reason they gravitate towards the this brand.

A few years ago, the retailer partnered with Anna Kendrick in a series of branded videos. Showing a familiar and relatable celebrity to promote their brand brought Kate Spade to an entire new generation that may not have noticed them otherwise.

Create a Strategic Vision for the Store

To redefine the role of your bookstore you need more than just adding a coffee shop and giving the space a facelift. You need a real strategic vision for the store.

Your strategic vision should start by taking into account the needs of your audience, their shopping habits, and how to best serve them.

For example, Generation Z is much more likely to be shopping on their smartphone instead of actually going into a store.

For a bookstore, something like just being in convenient location on campus is simply not enough of a draw. To be relevant, the bookstore needs to use a multi-channel strategy that includes social media to connect with them.

Implementing a strategic vision to address the needs of the next generation of students has to be done now so you’ll be ready to serve them.

Change takes time, and this is something that will need to be researched and rolled out carefully. There are many similarities between this generation and the next in terms of shopping.

The key to creating a strong plan for the future is finding the right combination of what is working for current students and blending it with the needs of next generation who will be soon be on your campus.

Using these best practices, the campus bookstore needs to reinvent itself to stay relevant and continue generating revenue for the institution and student programs.

LHR Consultants has considerable experience working with institutions to modernize their campus retail. To discuss your specific needs, contact us for a free consultation at: [email protected].


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