The college store website is one of the primary avenues for customers to make purchases from your store and a great way to share information with students. However, how can you attract repeat visitors to your website? One method is to keep your site fresh with ever-changing content and up-to-date information.
In this edition of Campus Store Conversations, we asked college stores how they keep their websites current and welcoming for students and customers.
Georgia Southern University Store Creates a User-friendly Website That Piques Students’ Interest
“We always start with finding sites that we like. We look for sites that we like the look of, the feel of, and then we look at the more technical aspects of the sites like the white margin, the layout, how much you can see without scrolling, how much you can fit on that first welcoming screen, etc. Then we have discussions about what we like and don’t like at the places we shop and how that affects our experience with the store. We look at how we can translate that into what we want to do on our site. That’s what we really focus on,” Carlita Slatky, Director, Retail Services, Georgia Southern University Store, said.
To be sure the store is speaking to their customer base, the store created a new position designed to help them stay on trend and listen to customer feedback.
“We have a newly created position that is our Customer Retention and Outreach Coordinator. Steve Bartels is wearing a lot of different hats at the moment. He is working on the overall customer experience whether it is in-store, online or on social media. He will help us focus on keeping the site as fresh as we can, staying on trend and listening to customer feedback,” Slatky said. “It’s important to listen to customer feedback. Like if something is hard to find, you need to know that. You might not even realize it until you actually get into the website and try to find the piece of merchandise you know is on the site, but you can’t. The buyer knows the keywords that they use, but not necessarily what you would use. So, we are very aware of the tags and names we use as well as what customers are looking for. We’ve got to make sure that everything is up to date with the description and the shopping experience, so our customers don’t have any barriers between them and all the great stuff they want to buy from us.
“We use MBS for our site. I know MBS is always working to continue to make it more friendly and easy-to-use. That’s something that has worked well with us and MBS. We worked hard to design our website when we first went on the system, and we have done at least one complete overhaul since then. We are constantly making little tweaks to the layout, the colors, the mix, things like that. We might want to move around the different blocks that we can drop different information into. There is always something we can improve,” Slatky said. “Anyone who tells you, “Okay, I’ve got the perfect website. It’s done,” is lying to you. Websites are constantly evolving. They are constantly changing and what is considered really in for a year or so, will soon make your website look really dated. Your site should invite people in to enjoy all the merchandise you have to offer. MBS has been very good with that.”
Read more about how the Georgia Southern University Store has created a user-friendly website.
Century College Bookstore Simplifies Navigation
Starting in 2019, Century College Bookstore set out to completely redesign its website and improve the user experience. They were able to remove 15 pages of excess information and streamline how customers can navigate through the site.
“Right now, on the main menu at the top, I only have six options. Textbooks and Help Center both have a dropdown. My goal is to make it easier to find things. To do that, I have to consider what customers might be looking for and what they might call those things. All of that fits together navigation-wise,” Brian Beahan, Bookstore Supervisor, Century College, said. “Going into this, I had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted. My inSite reps have a pretty good grasp of what I want and they have really helped me bring my ideas to fruition. They are super fast and super responsive. I feel like we really made the site easier to use in general. I was able to declutter our homepage a lot so it is very short now — it pretty much just has the banner and our calendar information. It’s a more modern design than it was before.
“I don’t know anything about coding or HTML, but I am a pretty quick learner. I try to do as much as I can, but when I need something, I just send Jerrica (MBS inSite Representative) an email and usually by the next day, it’s fixed. It depends on how much I am asking her to do. For example, if it is a new page, it might be a couple days, but it is usually a very fast turn around and everyone is very responsive. They are really great. Jerrica knows my style, and she doesn’t really need to follow up with too many questions. Usually, I try to be as specific as possible with requests,” he said. “Quite honestly, the responsiveness is the biggest thing I appreciate from MBS. Whether it is Rick (Senior Systems Sales Representative), Sean (Systems Support) or Kathy (Client Representative), they are all ready to help out if I need help. Even the POS team, if I have like a weird server or POS issue, they are very good about getting back to me really quickly or answering when I call despite the number of schools MBS works with. That’s the biggest thing for me. MBS is there if I need them.”
Read more about how Century College Bookstore updated its eCommerce website.
Ridgewater College Bookstore Adds Website Functionality
“Most recently, I added sizing and color filters which we didn’t have before. It’s been a huge update for us. The Ridgewater Bookstores have sizes XS to 5X, but we don’t have that size range in every item. Now, it is easier for customers to find their specific sizes with these filters. I highly recommend adding filters to your website if you haven’t done so already. MBS recently did a Tidbit Tuesday tutorial about the filters, and it is really informative,” Megan Andresen, Bookstore Coordinator, Ridgewater College Bookstore, said. “We also utilize the suggested selling and the course associations quite a bit. Course associations helped us fill in a gap. For example, if you are in the store, the associate can recommend a binder when a customer is picking up books for a course. Online we don’t have that interaction. Now, we can associate that binder with a course, so the customer still gets the suggestion. I definitely recommend taking the time to add any suggested selling items and course associations that you can.”
Another way the store keeps the site fresh and current is by frequently updating the home page with current information and by periodically surveying the whole site, start to finish.
“Our homepage provides the most information for students and faculty — I can update the slides almost daily if necessary. It has our important dates in terms of what’s going on in the college and the bookstore, any holiday events, and our contact information is also there. The homepage gets the majority of the information out there,” Andresen said. “Something else I do quite frequently is take the time to read the website from start to finish. A lot of changes have been made for COVID, so it is good to take stock of your site to make sure everything is consistent. Sitting down and going through our website is vital, and it has helped us better communicate with students, faculty, and staff about updates and changes of bookstore processes.”
Read more about how Ridgewater College Bookstore works to create a cohesive online presence.
South Central College Book Store Makes Sure Students Have the Information They Need
“Previously, our website was a resource for students to order books if they couldn’t come into the store. Once COVID hit, our physical storefronts shut down, so we had to get everything we sell online quickly. My approach was to make our site as complete as possible. I knew it needed to be user-friendly and continuously updated,” Katie Hewitt, Bookstore Manager/Retail Services Supervisor, South Central College Book Store, said. “I added how-to instructions to give students the step-by-step details they need to place book orders, recorded a video last semester about how to order books, and really did anything I could think of that would make it as easy as possible for students to order books, supplies or merchandise from the store especially since so many students had never had to order online through us before. Right after COVID, I actually took pictures from home of the clothing and supply items that I didn’t have stock photos of to get them on the website. I want the site to look like we are putting the effort in. When people are on there, I want them to have access to anything they can get in the store.”
By adding interactive features like how-to instructions and an FAQ page, the store created a great resource that helps eliminate a barrier between students and getting the books and materials they need.
“It is an easy place to direct people if they haven’t ordered from us before. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback on the instructions,” Hewitt said. “I am always in a continuous improvement mindset. I am constantly evaluating the site and asking what worked last time, what didn’t work, how can we fix it and how can we build on it. Our website is always a work in progress. After receiving the same questions in the fall from students, we created a Q&A section on our customer service tab, adding the important information students were asking about. It gave people easy access to the answers they are looking for without having to reach out to us. We also are always adding new promotions to the site, and there’s almost always a sale going on which I think helps for anyone logging on for the first time, it shows the customer we are committed to keeping things up to date.”
Read more about how South Central College Book Store simplifies online shopping.