For college stores like Ridgewater College Bookstore, updating the website to display all of the available inventory, share up-to-date information and streamline the purchasing process became a top priority in 2020. Joining the Ridgewater College Bookstore staff a month before COVID shutdowns, Bookstore Coordinator Megan Andresen had to quickly get up to speed on the MBS system and create a cohesive online presence for the bookstore.
“When I started, in-store selling was our primary focus and adding merchandise to the website fell to the backburner. I took over the site and our online presence. I knew that if someone wanted to look at what we had to offer it had to be on the site, especially with COVID. To begin with, we had maybe 10 t-shirts and now we have 74 t-shirts on the Willmar site,” Andresen said. “The majority of our sales were online from March to December. We reopened to the public in August but had a limited store occupancy for the fall semester. Our website was really our primary sale channel. I had to take it from minimal to our main point of contact for our customers, students and faculty. I wanted the site to represent who we are as a store, so I put all of our inventory from both campuses, Hutchinson and Willmar, online. I made our branding as cohesive as possible.”
When Ms. Andresen started, she was new to MBS inSite. She immediately took the initiative to work with the store’s inSite representative and better learn the system, so she could update the store’s site and utilize more functionality available to their store through inSite.
“It has definitely been a learning experience for me. I was learning everything right then and there. I looked at the documentation MBS has on their site that explains how to do things, but I also learned a lot just playing with it. I feel like by just sitting down and looking around at what’s available in the system and how each component works, you can learn a lot,” Andresen said. “I worked with our rep, Jerrica. If I couldn’t figure out how to do something, I would reach out to her — she’s a great point of contact. I really like that I can just play around with the site and know that there is always someone to answer questions. Initially, when I was learning how to update the homepage slides, I asked Jerrica. She was said I didn’t have to learn it because she was more than happy to update them for us, but if I wanted to learn, she could give me directions on how to do so. I appreciate that she takes the time to answer questions, and also gives me the opportunity to learn. It’s a two-way relationship. We are working together to make our website better.”
To further improve online sales, Andresen has made some updates to the site to improve customer search functionality and add more course associations.
“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,” Andresen 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.”
The store has also worked on creating a cohesive online presence between the website and social media.
“I think that social media is in direct correlation with what needs to be put on the website. If there is a sale, date that books need to be returned by or anything that is college-related that I am working on for social media, then I also immediately create something to put on the website. That way the information we are sharing is cohesive from platform to platform. Ridgewater College has had to adapt over the past year, and just like the college, the Ridgewater College Bookstore strives to improve, adapt, and make our customer experience better across all platforms,” Andresen said.