Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers



A Look at How Students Buy Course Materials

Posted by Liz Schulte on 8/25/17 5:30 AM
Topics: course materials, Marketing to Students, student behavior

Course materials have a vital role to play in the success of a student’s education. However, making sure students have what they need when they need it is a concern. With the growing cost of education and student financial struggles, it’s important to understand their buying habits and their preferences when looking for solutions.

A Look At How Students Buy Course MaterialsIn a recent Nielsen survey, student attitudes toward higher education were investigated. 1,829 interviews were completed with students from two and four year institutions within a variety of disciplines. The survey found that students prefer print to digital, but digital is still considered valuable. Getting the best price is the student’s biggest concern when choosing where to shop.

In addition, MBS sponsored a few questions through the Nielsen survey to better understand how students purchase their materials, when they buy materials and what solutions they would be most likely to adopt.  

How do students make purchases?

First year students have a greater tendency to purchase their course materials from one place, whether it is all at once or one at a time. This trend decreases year-to-year. More fourth year students prefer to shop for materials in multiple locations.

What can we extrapolate from this data? Given that a student’s greatest concern when acquiring their course materials is cost-savings followed by ease of purchase, offering price comparison tools could be useful in retaining student business and trust.

When do students purchase course materials?

The majority of students who purchase their materials will do so before classes start, a quarter will purchase within a day of classes starting and 14% wait a week or more after classes start.

The internet is filled with a plethora of advice surrounding when a student should buy their books. Some recommend buying before classes and others believe delaying is the best course of action, citing factors like: waiting in case the student decides to drop the class, confirming with the professor that the required textbook is actually required or seeing if an older edition is acceptable.

Waiting to purchase course materials can negatively impact a student’s success. According to research, students who waited two weeks after classes started to obtain their course materials had substantially lower grades than those who acquired the textbook within a few days. Also, the materials could be harder for the student to find, extending their time without the necessary materials.

What is the student perception of course materials fee programs?

Over 70% of students would be willing to participate in an inclusive access program, especially if it saves them money. 6% would opt out and 18% weren’t sure what they would do. As with many student course materials decisions, cost is a determining factor. If students feel like they could get the same materials from other sources for less, many of them will. As for the fee students considered to be a fair, it ranged from $120 to $227.

Ultimately, being able to provide students with all of their materials for less than the cost of buying them individually could prove to be a tempting option for a large portion of the student body, especially if they are made aware of the savings they are receiving by opting into the program. It would also ensure students have the correct materials by the first day of class.

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About Liz Schulte

Liz is a marketing copywriter for MBS. Her background ranges from customer service to business owner. She has firsthand experience with creating marketing plans as well as ensuring the customer’s needs are met. When she isn’t in the office, she is an avid reader, a prolific writer and the owner of two very spoiled dogs.

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