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CCRI Discovers the Power of Retail Analytics

Posted by Lori Reese on 2/11/20 7:00 AM
Topics: business intelligence, college stores, dashboard

Ray Karasek, Community College of Rhode Island’s Auxiliary Services Director, calls the Dashboard analytics suite “the Ferrari of MBS.”

CCRI Discovers the Power of Retail Analytics

“I can’t speak enough about Dashboard. It’s had a really positive effect on our business plan. The impact is global,” Dr. Karasek said. “It’s so interesting, because we can look at the big picture. We can see how much financial aid we do, for example. Or we can see that we do much less cash now and way more credit.”

Before MBS added a set of key performance indicator (KPI) tools to Dashboard, Dr. Karasek said he appreciated the potential of retail analytics, but knew little about the program.

“I try to be data centered but not crazy data centered,” Dr. Karasek said.

His Territory Manager suggested the enhanced Dashboard could offer useful business insights.

 “With [other programs], it can take so long to make a report. It’s like click, click, click here, click there. But with Dashboard, you hit a button and these predefined reports pop up. Then you can take this data, export it to Excel and look back on the history and see, ‘Oh, we don’t need to be open so late on these days, because, historically, we don’t do a lot of sales.’ Just being able to look at sales by the hour is huge.”

One-click access to key measures of campus store health

The Dashboard  tools offer much more than a perspective on sales by the hour. A single click at any given moment delivers a clear, easily digested snapshot of key campus store metrics like foot-traffic, sales and returns. With another click, users can drill down into specific areas like course material sales for a single department or class.

“We can see how many people came through at specific hours. I can click on a tab and see right now that on a specific day, for all the stores combined, we did $10,000 in sales. We served 570 customers and we sold a total of 1,157 units, which could be anything from a pen to a book. It also tells us how many dollars we returned. We returned $91 that day.”

The reports shed light on ways Dr. Karasek and his team can perfect their business strategy. An analysis of historic hourly sales prompted them to restructure store hours. A combination of individual store reports revealed precisely where and when CCRI Bookstores needed more temp workers during rush. A set of reports on rush-time returns revealed ways to cut down on excess course material inventory next term.

“It’s nice to go into our returns database during rush,” Dr. Karasek said. “You can start modeling data to answer questions like, ‘Why did we get X number of coursebooks back this term?’ You look at past reports on the same title for the same class, and you start to see a pattern. It looks like students are buying the book, going to class, then finding out that they’re not using the book. That’s why you get so many returns. So, maybe you don’t need to order as many to start with.”  

Streamlined access to the Dashboard reports motivates the managers and employees at each of CCRI’s four stores, because it demonstrates the results of their efforts.

“I like the manager’s ability to be able to use the Dashboard for each store, because the managers can sign on and look at how their store is trending at different times,” he said.  

How to make the most of Dashboard 

Dr. Karasek said that Dashboard works best if campus store managers and directors use it in combination with their retail intuition. The numbers complement what salespeople learn from customers on the floor. They don’t replace it. 

“We can use all the data we want, but the staff is what makes it valuable. They can tell you that they heard customers saying they’re getting tired of a certain kind of green cup, for instance. The data won’t help you find a new cup design, but it will tell you if you’re ordering the right quantity of the new design. It allows you to see overall whether you’re doing the right thing and correcting course at the right the amounts,” Dr. Karasek said.  

He advised campus stores that aren’t using Dashboard to set up a demonstration as soon as possible. He said it would be especially helpful to see how another campus store manager is using the software. Dr. Karasek has conducted demos over Skype for store managers.

Staying ahead of campus retail needs

In addition to his Territory Manager, Dr. Karasek credited his MBS Business Analyst for helping him discover Dashboard’s potential. He engaged in ongoing dialogue with the MBS system services team throughout the introduction of the latest Dashboard tools. He said he expects the software will only grow more powerful.  

“Between [MBS services] working so hard on the Dashboard revamp and people like [my Territory Manager] helping drive more stores toward this, the Ferrari is only going to get better,” Dr. Karasek said.


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