The university bookstore is going through an evolution. Once known as “the place” to pick up course materials and spirit goods, regular visits to the bookstore have dropped to only two to four times per year per student, solely for textbook purchases and buyback.A challenge facing the bookstore today is how to connect with their customers and bring them back on a regular basis. There are solutions like events, special sales, offering more than just books and communicating these messages in ways that can rise above the marking noise flooding people daily.
University Bookstore in Seattle offers a café for students to enjoy. The menu includes coffee, tea and wine. Along with food, the event calendar is also full of readings and meet-and-greets with local and national authors. Events are almost daily, and for the holidays, Santa pays a visit. The University Bookstore Facebook page boasts more than 16,000 followers and regular updates to keep you abreast of what is happening.
Kennel Bookstore at Fresno State in Fresno, California, recently held their annual holiday sale. In its 38th year, word of mouth, heritage and new Facebook communications resulted in lines outside the store and their 20’x40’ tent housing 50% spirit wear. For 2016, Kennel Bookstore tried something new; a preview sale for faculty and staff only. Through a partnership with Apple, the store had postcards made and mailed on campus only. The three day event resulted in more than $100,000 in sales.
Extended hours have made the Slayter Student Union at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, the place to be. The bookstore itself offers traditional business hours, but the facility as a whole engages students and the general public. Open until midnight daily and accessible to students 24 hours, Slayter Hall boasts a snack bar, lounges, student mailboxes and an auditorium, offering the student body a place outside their rooms to work, study and be social.
While some bookstores are catering to their customers with food and amenities, a small bookshop in East Lansing, Michigan, just across the street from Michigan State University has gone in a different direction. Curious Book Shop sells books, pure and simple. While not a course materials retailer, the rare and used bookseller offers three floors and 50,000 square feet of books. The attraction is the experience shoppers have. Students walk in to take in the smell of books, snap photos for social media or to stroll through nostalgia in the 18 foot wide 100 foot deep store. Engaged on Facebook, Curious Bookshop showcases their inventory, ranging from holiday books, children’s entertainment and cookbooks.
Connecting with your customers when they are outside your walls, and giving them a reason to come back will further grow your business and build loyalty in an age when most are loyal to whoever has the best app. Whether it be through social media, mailers, word-of-mouth or offering an experience, the unique connection between retailer and customer can still run deep.