An eye-catching tech department attracts customers. Retail data shows that more shoppers look for brick-and-mortar stores to offer an enhanced experience with carefully selected merchandise they can see, feel and touch. One way to capitalize on these trends: Add a curated set of budget-friendly gadgets to your tech department that students can admire and sample.
Student shoppers expect more from brick-and-mortar
When it comes to attracting consumers, campus stores have an advantage: most shoppers still prefer brick-and-mortar to online shopping, according to data from Retail Dive. The reason? Shoppers want to handle merchandise before they make a purchase.
- 62% of shoppers prefer brick-and-mortar shopping because they like to see and feel items before purchases.
Meanwhile, student spending on computers and other tech supplies has increased in past years, even as course material costs have declined, according to the National Association of College Stores (NACS).
- Tech and school supply sales increased 21% in the 2017-2018 school year.
- Average spending on tech and school supplies exceeded $600, while spending on course materials dropped to just over $400.
Combined, this data suggests that campus stores offering enhanced in-store experiences are more likely to become favored student hubs.
College stores driving campus relevance with cool tech
The Aztec Shops at San Diego State University boosted its appeal when it installed a set of gaming chairs that students can use free of charge. Students tell what the store calls an Aztecnologist in the Aztecnology department that they want to experience the experience. This grants them 30 minutes in the chairs with a game controller and a 75-inch TV.
Aztec Stores Director Kathy Brown said that the investment has paid off in the form of increased foot traffic and student loyalty.
“We just wanted to get the students in the store — not because we wanted them to buy something, but so they would have somewhere to go. In the future, if they need something, they can trust us and know that we’re here to support them,” said Brown.
Oklahoma State University’s University Store drives student foot traffic with services like 3D printing. It keeps a printer on display, fashioning everything from precise anatomical figures to miniature Iron Thrones. Students drop in from the adjacent student union just to watch the machine work its magic.
OrangeTech Assistant manager, Christy Lench, said 3D printing and other services help the store establish a positive connection with the students.
“It really helps build relationships,” Lench said.
Six great gadgets for a student budget
When you look for gadgets that might attract students, consider some with student-friendly prices that are designed to fit student lifestyles and trends.
- Noise-cancelling wireless headphones — These headphones can transform almost any environment — dorm, coffee shop, or student union – into a personal study hub. In the past, quality versions were often priced between $200 and $400, outside the average student budget. While many of the best remain expensive, it’s now possible to find well-reviewed, popular brands for $40 to $50.
- Smart notebooks — Sleek, wireless, environmentally apt and lighter than a laptop: reusable smart notebooks made several 2019 lists of most popular back-to-school gadget. Students can take notes with an erasable colored pen, scan them to an app, then wipe off the notebook and use it again.
- Wearables – High-quality fitness trackers and smart watches are available at student-friendly prices. One model from Withings™ costs less than $70 and boasts an 18-month battery life.
- Full spectrum therapy lights — These sunlight emulators range in price between $40 and over $400. Portable versions can brighten even the grimmest dorm room and stave off the winter blues. Students who have trouble rising early might also enjoy a full-spectrum sunrise alarm clock, which wakes you up with gentle shifts in light.
- Electronic translators — If your school has study abroad students, then stocking these gadgets is a must. They’re designed to offer nuanced linguistic assistance when you’re in a tight spot — like when you don’t quite understand your professor’s homework assignment, or when you’re homesick and need to ask for your favorite food in English.
- Microwave cookware — Though not exactly a tech gadget, these accessories upgrade a perennial dorm necessity. Once, an affordable microwave meal consisted of uninspiring morsels like reheated rubbery pizza or noodles boiled in a Styrofoam cup. These cookware gadgets allow students to make much heartier meals. Dorm dwellers will be delighted to find microwave pasta makers, rice cookers, bacon cookers, omelet cookers and egg poachers in your store — especially when they’re feeling nostalgic for home cooked meals.