The Direct Network

3 Ways a Bookstore Can Boost (or Undermine) Retention

Posted by Lori Reese on Feb 7, 2018 5:30:00 AM
Topics: college store customer service, retention, textbook affordability

Grades, school cost, student satisfaction: All influence student retention. Your campus bookstore — whether virtual or brick-and-mortar — has a critical impact on all three factors.

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A bookstore is a student service and a revenue source. It can be a campus hub where students gather, find connection and release stress. Or it can be a place that causes students stress — a key contributor to retention drops.  

It can be somewhere students learn about money-saving course materials options, which help them meet rising tuition costs.

Or the bookstore can fight a reputation for gouging students.

It can be known for excellent service, for associates who reassure students with authority and expertise. Or, it can be a place that increases newcomers’ feelings of worry and alienation as they search for help and find none.

3 key ways your campus store affects retention

  1. Academic success — Studies show students who buy textbooks early — at least two weeks before class — experience greater success. Students who arrive prepared for class on day 1 delight faculty and receive higher grades. A course materials solution that fails to stock enough titles, entice students to make early purchases and simplify distribution at your school will undermine retention.

WrongA course materials solution that struggles to distribute books on time.

 Right:  A solution that ensures students have books day 1.

  1. Savings — Studies show first-year and first-generation students spend more on course materials than others. That’s often because they don’t understand the dizzying array of format options available to help them save money. Studies also show many students stop shopping at the campus bookstore after freshman year. They either go to off-campus sellers or simply stop buying books. Formatting choices can confuse customers. A good bookstore familiarizes students and faculty early with cost-saving formats like digital, OER and alternative content. It offers service professionals who can help explain textbook prices, and it has solid relationships with publishers, allowing it to negotiate better prices for bulk orders.

Wrong: A textbook solution that confuses students or fails to offer cost-saving options.

Right: A course materials solution that makes cost-saving options transparent.

  1. Branding — The bookstore’s reputation influences the school’s brand. In some stores, students’ shopping experience can be stressful, onerous, confusing and downright chaotic. Those who feel alienated while shopping at the campus store — or in the online bookstore — will feel like the institution doesn’t care about their success. Students who believe the bookstore gouges them — and many campus stores fight such a reputation — will think the school is exploiting them, too. Students who feel their institution is overpriced are likely to shop elsewhere for an education.

Wrong: A bookstore that fails to offer a personalized customer experience and assure students they’re getting a fair price on course materials.

Right:  A solution that nurtures students with superior service.

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About Lori Reese

Lori Reese is a writer and an educator with 20 years of experience in higher education teaching.

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