A student stares down at rows of books, perplexed, eyebrows drawn together as she squints at the shelf tags between the constant stream of other students shuffling by. To her left, another student stands with his friends trying to look up the books he needs online.
“Oh, I think this is right,” he says, showing his friend the small phone screen.
“It’s a different cover.”
“It’s the same time title and cheaper.”
They shrug in unison before ordering the wrong edition from a questionable seller.
“Can you help me?” A student asks the closest adult carrying a stack of books. “I can’t find this book.” He points at his syllabus, which wasn’t updated from the previous semester.
An upperclassman pushing her way through the throng of students says, “I always forget it’s like this.” Her annoyed eyeroll punctuates the sentence.
Up until last month, I had only experienced rush as a student. I remember going to the college bookstore and finding my books, excited for the upcoming semester. Much like the upperclassman, my memory would fade over the course of the semester about how frustrating the experience could be. When I was in school, I didn’t have the option to order online — one I would have gladly used. Being able to avoid the confusion, the lines and searching for anyone who can help would have meant my semester could have started off calm and focused rather than hectic and harried.
Rush by its very nature is chaotic. Nearly the entire student body swarms the store in a short period of time, each student needing help and annoyed about a variety of factors. The employees, exhausted and frazzled, do their best to assist them, but providing the type of shopping experience students have grown to expect is impossible. It makes it hard to start the students’ relationship with the school off on the right foot when buying their course materials can be such a challenge.
However, there are ways to simplify the student experience and win their trust, while saving the school money.
- Online bookstore
Many schools have been moving away from the overhead expense of running a brick-and-mortar bookstore as more students look to avoid the hassles of buying their course materials on campus. However, schools still need course materials as a revenue stream, especially with decreases in enrollment numbers.
With an online bookstore you can provide students with cost-savings options, a smooth shopping experience and ensure they have the course materials they need on time. It also saves schools upfront by not having to carry the inventory or being stuck with customized stock that cannot be sold or returned.
Lincoln University transitioned from a brick-and-mortar store to an online bookstore to lower the cost of course materials and offer students more options, like using their SFA to make online purchases. The process was fast and exceeded expectations.
“We made the decision in July for an August start. It was a high-speed transition and MBS was helpful in getting everything to us,” Lincoln University CFO Sandra Koetting said. “We appreciate the customer service. It’s important in any business. The students appreciate the savings and the options.”
- Inclusive access
Another solution schools have turned to ensure their students have the course materials they need to be successful is inclusive access. By including the cost of course materials in tuition or as a fee, schools have the flexibility to determine what course materials they want to use — new, used, digital and rental — and whether or not the materials will be a revenue stream for the school.
"One of the unique features that sets our school apart is that our students don't see a textbook bill," Craig J. McMichael, Detroit Catholic Central High School technology integrationist and social studies teacher "We are providing that content for them as part of their education, so we want to make sure that it is delivered as seamlessly as possible through MBS Direct."
- Online bookstore with in-store pickup
Just because a school chooses to sell their textbooks online doesn’t mean the store has to close. The hybrid model is the best fit for many schools. By freeing up the space dedicated to textbooks and the overhead inventory costs, they can better run a spirit wear and campus merchandise store.
The stores don’t even have to lose the student traffic that comes with rush. It is possible to make arrangements for students to pick up their online orders in the store.
“We encourage our students to use the bulk shipping method to our campus location,” Campus Store Director Beverly Dickerson said. “They see significant savings, especially if they order during the state’s tax-free weekend in August, and it also allows us to still have the maximum amount of store traffic and customer interaction.”
Ouachita Baptist University has course materials delivered to the store in bundles organized by student name for the staff to pass out at the beginning of the semester.
“Now, we receive a commission for our textbook sales and it feels like MBS Direct is doing all the work!” Dickerson said.