Archive for August, 2011
In order to succeed in the competitive college store industry today, you need to not only have the necessary tools, but also the knowledge of how to use them. Just like your student customers, you should be continually learning.
But accomplishing this task on your own is no easy feat. That’s why we developed customer training sessions on all of our products and applications. Our goal is to not only bring the latest technology to the industry; but also to ensure that each of our customers is capable of effectively incorporating that technology to meet their needs.
“We want to ensure all our of customers use our system to its fullest capacity,” explained Keith Caldwell, manager of customer education for MBS. “These sessions enhance retailers’ understanding of the current functions, so they can further benefit from the extensive features and ultimately, save time.”
Similarly, training also allows stores to learn new ways to incorporate these functions in their store.
“It allows them to see the big picture by understanding how the system can best meet their individual store’s needs,” added Caldwell.
Adding yet another benefit, MBS recently created three new Training Packages. Allowing stores to ‘bundle’ different types of training, these cost-effective packages are ideal for on-going education.
With a variety of options, including sessions held at regional seminars, in-store, online or even on-site at our headquarters in Columbia, stores have countless opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of MBS offerings.
“The Silver, Gold, and Platinum packages are a great way to get a variety of training at an excellent value,” Caldwell said.
Continuing education is truly invaluable to ensure your store is using its system to the fullest potential. To take full advantage of the new and innovative techniques available with you MBS Total Store System, talk with your MBS Representative about beginning training sessions.
Each year, Bobbi Difronzo, merchandise distribution manager at Inver Hills Community College Bookstore, looks forward to the summer months for one reason in particular: vacation! A welcome tradition for her and her two children, she enjoys the chance to get away, to explore new places, or to visit old friends. This summer, however, Bobbi combined all three during a trip to the MBS Headquarters!
Stopping at a few other destinations along the way, Bobbi and her children arrived at MBS’ Columbia, Missouri headquarters in the last week of July, just in time to say her goodbyes to long-time colleague and friend, Alan Leach, MBS marketing support representative.
“Every summer, the kids and I look forward to taking road trips to someplace new,” she explained. “I had spoken to my territory manager, Kris Geister, during the week that I was planning this year’s trip and she mentioned Alan’s upcoming retirement, which put the idea in my head. I asked the kids if they wanted to visit a place that was related to my work, this year, and they were very excited; so that’s what we did!”
Throughout her store’s partnership with MBS, Bobbi came to know Alan well.
“He used to do buyback at my store way back when so I’ve known him for about 23 years,” she said. “Whenever we needed anything, Alan was always the guy to call. We’d receive whatever it was right away and end up with a box full of goodies when it came, too!”
During their visit, Bobbi was not only able to wish Alan well during his retirement but also experience his infamous tour throughout the building.
“The kids thought that was just the coolest thing! They were amazed at the size of the warehouse and couldn’t stop talking about the giant fans that were in back,” she said. “They even pointed to a pallet of MBS boxes and said ‘Look mom, those are your work boxes!’ They really enjoyed it.”
It was during that tour that Bobbi took note of a special aspect of MBS.
“I’ve always had great customer service from everyone there over the phone, but it’s another thing to see it in action,” she added. “You can just tell by walking down the hall that it’s a great place to work. Everyone seems genuinely happy, like they really enjoy what they’re doing. It’s a super friendly atmosphere.”
As yet another testament to MBS’ continued customer service, Bobbi had the chance to visit with her TA2Online representative, Kathy Davis, while in the building.
“Kathy is so helpful,” she said. “When I call in with an issue, I know she’s always going to be on the other end to pick up. She knows me and she knows my store so, no matter what the situation may be, I don’t have to worry because she’ll be able to help me resolve it quickly.”
Overall, both Bobbi and her family found the experience to be a fun and interesting one.
“It was nice to get a glimpse of what it’s like to work at MBS and catch up with all of the people I talk with over the phone,” she said. “We all had a good time!”
Don’t miss out on your chance to see behind-the-scenes of MBS. Tour our state-of-the-art facilities during the Winner’s Circle BBQ at this year’s Symposium. Register today!
A social media presence is a must. But simply creating accounts for your store on these sites doesn’t cut it anymore. Each week, we’ll explore a new way your store can enhance their online presence in our Social Media Series to make sure you’re taking full advantage of these interactive outlets.
The new word in retail is social commerce. The fusion of two digital trends, social commerce entails using social media to assist in the process of selling products and services online. Although e-commerce is undoubtedly still the most effective means of reaching potential online customers, this new phenomenon is one that is definitely creating a buzz.
- Engaging customers with your brand
- Providing your clients with a reason to your return to your website
- Bringing clients a reason to talk about your brand on your website
- Providing all the necessary information on your website for your clients to research, compare, make a decision and purchase from you, not your competitor
Realizing the potential impact of this new trend for their store, the staff at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Bookstore decided to explore the idea further.
“Our constant goal is to develop new ways to bring customers both into the store and onto our e-commerce site,” explained John Petroviak, web designer at UWM Bookstore. “Most recently, we integrated the shopping experience into our Facebook page, allowing us to raise awareness about our product offerings and potentially increase conversion.”
Using a free plug-in within the Facebook platform, Petroviak created a custom tab featuring over 30 distinct product categories. With the click of a button, the tab directs students to each category’s specific page on the store’s e-commerce site so they can easily find what they need and complete the purchase process.
“I started by creating the graphics for each category and used basic HTML skills to add the image and its corresponding link to the application,” he said. “It was very open-ended, so we were able to really personalize the tab to fit our store’s needs.”
Because the store has integrated Google Analytics within their e-commerce site, they have also been able to measure the effectiveness of the tab.
“Since adding the General Merchandise tab, we’ve definitely increased traffic,” Petrioviak explained. “In just under three months, we’ve had 274 referrals come from the links within the tab, so it’s proven to be a very effective marketing tool. “
Based on his experience, Petroviak urges others in the industry to take advantage of the free tools that are available to them, especially through social media.
“With the rise of the smartphone, so many students are constantly connected to technology that it’s really becoming the new way of communicating, especially for our target age group,” he added. “So, it makes a lot of sense for stores to get on the bandwagon along with our students. Overall, I’d say social media has definitely had a positive effect on our store and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here!”
To gear up for this year’s MBS Systems Users Symposium, Winning Strategies for Today’s Retailer, we’ll be bringing you a series of special guest articles, written by others in the industry! Be sure to take a look as they share their input on why Symposium is one event you won’t want to miss!
Today, Melissa Schaefer, of the IBM Institute for Business Value, shares her past research on the retail industry, how she believes her research impacts collegiate retailers, and why she can’t wait for this year’s Symposium!
As the Global Industry Leader for Retail at IBM’s Institute for Business Value, my job is to conduct research and analysis on retail industry trends. I look at feedback and consumer trends with regards to their shopping experience and how that affects the business of the retailer.
This information allows IBM to maintain its competitive edge by providing valuable information to help solve retailers’ problems. We also use this information to enhance our products and acquire new companies to better meet retailer’s needs.
As part of this position, I get to travel around the world speaking to retailers about the research and learning more about what’s happening in their specific market. It’s fascinating and an honor to talk to the top industry leaders about what they are seeing and hearing from their customers, and what their retail enterprise is working on to help attract and retain retail customers.
Although I’ve known and worked with the MBS leadership team for several years, the 2010 Symposium was my first. I was impressed by the multiple customer turn out across the country who come together to share ideas and learn together.
The opportunity to present IBM’s research study, talk to many of the retailers in attendance and compare and contrast the collegiate retail marketplace to other retail segments is enlightening. The collegiate retail marketplace is interesting due the parallel it has with the changes in the US consumers’ lives, meaning the collegiate markets have two customers they are always targeting, one is the collegiate and the other is the collegiate parent, who may control the funds.
As the US country’s households change, we see retailers struggling with understanding the relationship between the individual who influences and/or controls the funds of their aging parents, adult children or adult grandchildren, who some households are now raising.
Last year, there was a lot of great discussion around combating competition from on-line retailers and how to empower consumers with personalized loyalty programs. We built on some of that even more in this year’s study and expand into new areas around who the consumers trust, how the shopping process has changed from awareness, research, and purchase to taking possession of products and how to better serve customers in the future. This year’s research centers on how retailers will “Capitalize on this Smarter Consumer” and compares and contrasts 30,000 consumers around the globe and within different product categories.
We at IBM are very proud to be a sponsor of the MBS Symposium again this year. It is a unique event in the retail marketplace. MBS is a Premier IBM Business Partner meaning they are in the top echelon of all business partners representing our products.
MBS also participates in both our Retail Advisory Council and our Retail User Group. It is very refreshing to see a company like MBS shaping its investment strategies by what it hears not only from us, but from its customers at Symposium and from peers in the industry at these other events. That was made very clear when I saw how retailers were using technology MBS has developed at the Symposium.
I look forward to seeing you this October in Columbia!
To learn more about this event or to register, visit our official event website. Check back for future installments of our Symposium Series to see other attendee’s perspectives!
It’s that time of the year again! Students are preparing to head back to college, and the National Retail Federation has compiled a list of consumer trends to help retailers prepare. Based on their latest Back-to-School and College surveys, conducted by BIGresearch, we bring you an excerpt of some of the most relevant trends, and our take on what they mean for collegiate retailers. To view the full article by Kathy Grannis, NRF spokesperson, click here.
#2: It’s not about the best price. It’s about the best deal.
In 2009, it was all about the Benjamins. This year, we continue to see a trend that emerged during last year’s back-t0-school season: value matters more than price. Instead of looking for the lowest common denominator, parents may be swayed to purchase a laptop if it comes with a free one-year warranty or buy the lunchbox that comes with a matching thermos. Today’s back-to-school shopper is including factors like quality and service when deciding where to shop.
What it means for college stores: While your store may not always beat others on price, quality and service are two aspects collegiate retailers certainly offer. Promote your value by broadcasting the fact that you have little-to-no wait time at checkout or have employees that can help navigate students through the store to find what they’re looking for with ease on your social media. Consider highlighting specific high-quality products on these outlets, as well, to ensure students know they can use your store as a resource.
#6: This year, it all comes down to crunch time.
One of the trends NRF’s Ellen Davis wrote about last year was that “the early bird gets the deal.” Though we’re definitely seeing our share of shoppers who want to start early, many back-to-school shoppers this year are waiting until the last minute. Nearly one-third (31.2%) of parents of K-12th grade students will shop one to two weeks before school starts, up from 24.8% last year. For retailers, it will be important to move merchandise around in the supply chain, when possible, to take advantage of sales peaks as school bells start ringing in different areas of the country.
What it means for college stores: Be prepared for the possibility of rush to extending longer than normal. Keep this in mind when ordering inventory.
#7: Everyone’s a winner.
This year’s back-to-school season has something for everyone. Discounters, who have long touted low prices and one-stop-shopping convenience, will continue to be the most popular shopping destination. Department stores, as mentioned earlier, will see more shoppers than any time in our eight-year survey history. But a decent chunk of shoppers will also be visiting electronics stores, clothing stores and drugstores. The Internet also continues to be a force to be reckoned with, as people who shop in multiple channels will spend 40% more than those who only shop in stores – another reason why retailers should be paying close attention to their websites and mobile apps when thinking about ways to grow their business.
What it means for college stores: Consider adding extra information on your website or mobile apps such as current sales, promotions, or even online coupons. Play up the fact that you offer a variety of products from apparel to convenience items, so first time students know they can count on your store as a one-stop shop.
#10: Coming soon to a phone near you – back-to-school and college shopping.
In the next few weeks, NRF will be releasing brand-new data that evaluates how people will use their smartphones and tablets for back-to-school shopping this year. Let’s just say there are a lot of people who may buy their school or college needs without ever leaving their house – and those who plan to venture to the stores will be bringing their Droids and iPhones with them.
What it means for college stores: Students often have a perception that shopping online is cheaper. Ensure your store meets with that mentality by offering a discount to online shoppers during rush or offering them additional loyalty points. Your store can also capture those shoppers using their mobile devices by exploring mobile capabilities of MBS Systems inSite.
Check out the rest of the Top Ten for even more insight on how you can make the most of fall rush. For ideas on how to best prepare, talk with your MBS Representative.
With the digital age upon us, many in the industry focus on the difficulties technology brings to their store. But, the truth is the future of retail is exciting! Technology only opens up opportunities for each store to expand their market share. Take a look at this new development in tablet technology. Although it’s not yet released in North America, imagine the possibilities of having these in store, allowing students to easily navigate to everything from textbooks to on sale apparel!
Quite possibly the dream for an extreme couponer, SK Telecom launched a test program of grocery carts with a tablet computer mounted on the handle at China’s Shanghai Lotus supermarket. After a user downloads the free “smart cart” application to a smartphone, the tablet PC on the cart is synced to the phone. On the smartphone app, users can create a shopping list as well as search for store coupons, weekly discounts or product information. After syncing, the tablet has the ability to guide the user around the store and highlight the products on the shopping list.
The tablets are networked through the store’s Wi-Fi and uses indoor positioning technology to alert the consumer of products and discounts as they come within a few feet of the product. It also provides an in-store map that guides the user around the store to locate everything on the shopping list. In addition, real-time updates can be sent to all carts at the same time. If these smart carts were rolled out at K-Mart, for instance, people could be alerted about a Blue-light special through the video screen rather than over the intercom. When the consumer goes to check out at the register, the tablet screen offers up the complete list of purchased items, price paid, membership points earned and discounts applied.
An additional roll-out of this new technology is planned for Korean stores by the end of the year. There are no announced plans regarding bringing this technology to North America or Europe. While the tablets appear to be removable, there’s no indication that the device would be able to resist inclement weather and carts would likely have to be stored indoors. The tablets would also have to be resistant to the hands of children as the placement is very close to the child seat on carts.
How do you think the future of tablets, and even technology in general, will impact the retail industry? What are you most excited for? What are your biggest concerns? Share your insight and ideas on our Facebook Page!
Foursquare business pages are no longer limited to large brands with the money and clout to buy Foursquare’s limited and in-demand dev resources. Business pages are now self-serve, Foursquare announced Tuesday.
For the past 18 months, Foursquare has created about 3,000 business pages in-house, relying on its developers and designers and coordinating with brand creative teams along the way.
It was a time-consuming, unsustainable and restricting growth model that limited the amount of businesses that could be “followed” on Foursquare. As a result, the location-based service tended to work with big names, such as Louis Vuitton, Zagat, The New York Times, the History Channel, Brooklyn Museum and the city of Chicago.
Now, any business can create a free Foursquare business page, enabling it to customize a branded page where fans can “follow” the brand and unlock its tips.
Foursquare’s new self-serve model for brand pages will be particularly beneficial to small businesses, who have gained from managing their venues on Foursquare, but have not had the ability to interact with users by leaving Foursquare tips.
The biggest improvement to the business page experience is the ability to have entire teams of people manage the same page. Foursquare introduced a new tool to enable brands to add multiple page “managers” to a page’s account.
Before getting started, brands should read through Foursquare’s FAQ on business pages to get an idea of what they’ll need to get started and maintain the page.
Does your store use foursquare? If so, what kind of tips or promotions do you include? Have you seen any benefits? Head to our Facebook and share your experience with others in the industry!
Expanding the reach of your brand through an online presence is an all-important aspect of retailers’ success. If you simply create these sites without tracking any data, however, then your store is missing out on valuable opportunities. You can increase sales and even determine if this spike was caused by SEO improvements, a successful email campaign, advertising or seasonal variations all by using an analytics program.
To better understand the effectiveness of your inSite e-commerce page, you have two options: track within inSite using the features already built-in to the platform, or integrate a third-party software, such as Google Analytics. Today, we show you how to do both!
•Using inSite Analytics:
This feature allows you to track purchases from any designated link. For instance, find out how many visitors clicked through a link you posted on your alumni website or the number of purchases that resulted from your linked advertisement on a partnered local business’ site.
1. Within the platform, navigate to the ‘Affiliate Options’ sections.
2. Locate ‘Enable Affiliate Tracking?’ Click the ‘Yes’ radio button to start tracking your bookstore’s affiliates.
3. The following confirmation message displays: Affiliate Tracking enabled. (Affiliate Tracking is disabled by default.)
4. Next, add a new affiliate by completing the following fields as described below:
•Name – Enter a description of the affiliate. The description may contain up to 50 characters.
•Parameter – Enter a short value that will be used as part of the URL link from the affiliate up to 10 characters.
•Enabled? Check this box to enable the affiliate.
5. Click the ‘Add New’ button to complete the addition.
6. Now, you can access detailed reporting on this link!
It’s that easy! Contact your inSite Client Representative to discuss how to further customize this option for even more detailed reporting and data.
•Using Google Analytics
You can use any third-party software to gather data about your e-commerce site. We recommend Google Analytics because its advanced capabilities are both easy to use and free!
1. Browse to the Google Analytics page.
2. Click ‘Sign Up Now’ within the blue box.
3. If you already have a Gmail account, log in and skip to step 7. If you do not have an account, select ‘Create an account now’ and proceed to the next step.
4. Fill in your appropriate information.
5. Reply to email verification
6. Again, navigate to Google Analytics, and log in with your new account information.
7. To start the setup process, create a Google Analytics account by clicking the ‘Sign Up Now’ link.
8. Enter your account information:
- Enter your e-commerce website’s URL. If it’s a multiple store setup, enter the main/home store address. Once your account has been created, you can add additional stores to track.
- Account Name can be whatever you wish. We suggest using your store’s name.
- Change the timezone, if necessary.
9. Enter your personal information. Click Continue. Agree to the Terms and Service and, again, click continue.
10. Now, that you have completed the setup process, you’ll see the Google Analytics API code. You should copy and paste all of this code into the Third Party Application area of inSite. You’ll find this section under ‘Design Elements.’ Then, continue to the next screen.
11. Once the setup is complete, you will see the ‘Analytics Settings’ page. This is the first page you will see each time you log on to your account. You can click ‘View Reports’ to access data or select ‘Edit’ to alter settings and goals. Both of these functions can be found on the left side of the orange bar. To switch back and forth between these two options, click the ‘Analytics Settings’ link on the right side of the orange bar.
- Note: To track additional websites, click the ‘Add Website Profile’ link and enter the required information. If you look under status, you will see ‘Tracking Code Not Verified.’ Once the code is in place, it can take between 24-36 hours for the code to start reporting back to Google from the inSite URL.
12. Click the ‘Edit’ link to edit settings. Here you can adjust the main website profile information, goals, funnels, filters, and users. See below for information on how to complete each of these sections.
A goal is a website page a visitor reaches once they have made a purchase or completed another desired action, such as a registration or download. Before Google Analytics can calculate goal conversion metrics, you must define one or more goals.
- To set up goals, select one of the four Goal slots on the page from Step 12 and click ‘Edit.’ Complete the following information:
- URL for the goal page: Specify a page that can only be reached by achieving a goal. In the case of a registration goal, for example, the URL might be that of a ‘Thank You’ page. For an e-commerce site, this could be the purchase confirmation page. Remember, if your goal page can be reached by visitors who have not completed your desired action, then your conversion rate will be inflated.
- The name of the goal: Specify a name you will recognize when viewing reports. Examples of names you might use include “email sign-up” or “coupon ABC download.”
- Turn the goal On/Off. This selection tells Google whether it should currently track this conversion. In most cases, this should always be turned on.
- Designate if the URL is case sensitive by selecting the checkbox.
- Select the appropriate Goal Match Type.
- Enter a Goal Value. This information is used to calculate ROI.
- If you wish to create a funnel, read on. If not, Click Save Changes to create this goal.
A funnel is a series of pages or a navigational path leading up to the Goal URL that you expect visitors to take before converting to the goal. For example, you might define the checkout steps that lead up to a completed purchase as a funnel. In this example, the funnel would not generally include any product pages, but rather consist of only those final pages that are common to all transactions, such as the the first page of your checkout process, then the shipping address information page, and finally the credit card information page.
- To Create a Funnel:
- Add a defined funnel: You may specify up to ten pages in a defined funnel. Defining these pages allows you to see how frequently visitors abandon goals and where they go.
- Add in the URLs for the succession of navigational pages you would like to track within a funnel.
- Then, click Save Changes.
Adding a new user:
- Click the ‘+Add User’ link on the Profile Settings page.
- Select an access type.
Once you have completed these steps, your basic Google Analytics account has been set up and you can begin tracking data! You can further customize your page to suit your store’s specific needs. For more information or for help on completing any of these steps, contact your MBS inSite Representative.
The following informative article offers a great perspective on upcoming trends that apply to this year’s fall rush. The information was published on InternetRetailer.com and was written by Thad Rueter, Senior Editor. Click here to view the article.
Smartphones and social networks will play prime roles in back-to-school shopping this year, according to a new survey from Deloitte LLP.
The consulting and accounting firm says that 64% of consumers with web-enabled smartphones will use the devices for back-to-school shopping; 61% will use their mobile devices to find the best prices for school products. 43% of consumers will use their smartphones to download discounts, coupons and sales information; 37% to locate a retail store; 29% to receive product information; and 25% to access a retailer’s web site.
“Price-conscious and time-constrained, consumers are navigating virtual and physical storefronts to get the information they want quickly and easily,” says Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and Deloitte’s retail & distribution sector leader. “Retailers need to respond with an integrated experience. In short, they must unite the store with their online and mobile channels to enable consumers to easily access product availability, promotions and information.”
Deloitte based its findings on surveys conducted between July 5 and July 11 of 1,000 parents of children in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The survey offered no historical data about smartphone use during the back-to-school shopping season.
But Deloitte did find that more consumers will turn to social networks this year for back-to-school shopping. 35% of parents who took part in the survey plan to use social networking sites during their shopping, up from 29% last year. Most parents—69%—will use social media to sniff out promotions, while 44% will use the likes of Facebook to browse products. 28% will seek out product reviews and recommendations via social media. 12% will watch product or retailer videos, while 9% say they will use social networks to post comments and reviews about back-to-school products.
To stay up to speed on these new back-to-school trends, here are some of MBS’ suggestions:
•Integrate QR Codes onto shelf-talkers or in-store signs with additional product information. Learn how.
•Place price comparison information on your inSite e-commerce page through the MBS-Verba integration.
•Talk with your inSite Client Representative about enabling the newly enhanced mobile capabilities of your inSite page.
•Ensure your location information is easily searchable on websites such as Yelp.
To gear up for this year’s MBS Systems Users Symposium, Winning Strategies for Today’s Retailer, we’ll be bringing you a series of special guest articles, written by others in the industry! Be sure to take a look as they share their insight on why Symposium is one event you won’t want to miss!
Today, Omar Iftikhar, General Director of System Development at MBS and former IT Director at the Titan Shops, shares his past experience at Symposium and why he can’t wait for this year!
As we rapidly approach the 7th Annual MBS Systems Users Symposium, I can’t help thinking how different this one will be for me. Though I have attended all 6 previous years, I was then a customer of MBS. This will be the first event as an employee.
A little background here might help. My previous job was IT Director for Auxiliary Services at Cal State Fullerton. I managed the IT for all our businesses, including the campus bookstore.
My first introduction to MBS was back in 1995 when we were first looking for a retail management solution to replace our aging EIS system. At that time, I had been working at the bookstore for four years and was transitioning from an hourly employee in the computer retail department to my first full-time position as Systems Coordinator for Auxiliary Services.
We made our selection of MBS in 1996 and installed in the summer of 1997. I was part of the installation and conversion team and soon enough was the primary administrator and contact for all things MBS.
It was also around this time that our industry started changing significantly, and we worked closely with MBS to try to meet these new challenges. Features such as rentals, eBooks, gift cards, price comparison, registrar link and fully integrated e-commerce were implemented and helped keep our bookstore competitive and relevant in the face of increased competition.
I got to know the support and development staff at MBS very well and gained a better understanding of, and respect for, the value of the MBS Systems division.
These relationships were further developed during the annual trips we made to MBS to work one-on-one on some of our open issues and new ideas, mixed in with an element of fun.
These trips were in the pre-Symposium days and, to me, really illustrated the true value of an event like the Symposium. Having the opportunity to physically meet the people we worked with, mostly over the phone, over the years and have that collaborative interaction truly humanized the technology for all of us.
Meeting your fellow bookstore colleagues and listening to their experiences highlights the fact that you are not alone in facing the industry’s challenges. Any technology is only as good as the people who develop and use it, and to have those two groups in the same room is invaluable. Understanding what challenges both the provider and user face makes for a better product experience.
So, I am looking forward to welcoming all of you in October to my new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. We hope to make this 7th Symposium as special for you as it will be for myself and I am really looking forward to it!
To learn more about this event or to register, visit our official event website. Check back for future installments of our Symposium Series to see other attendee’s perspectives!