The CU Book Store at the University of Colorado Boulder brought home the MVP award at this year’s ICBA conference in Las Vegas. This is the first time they have won the prestigious award in the history of their membership in the organization. Constantly watching the industry and learning from their peers, the CU Book Store brings successful innovation to their campus.
“It isn’t always about coming up with new ideas,” Chris Gotski, director of CU Book Store said. “We watch what has been successful in other college bookstores and bring it to our campus.”
One of the main focuses in their store has been to implement technology in every area possible. They have enabled electronic shelf labels, they continue to invest in their ERP system and have implemented innovative tools like a quick swipe booklist kiosk for their students. The students appreciate seeing the store investing in technology specifically designed to help them. With a PC/tablet and a high-speed receipt printer set up at multiple locations in the store, students can swipe their ID and print off their class schedule, complete with the course materials for each class and whether or not they are required — even the location on the shelves is provided.
“Our focus is on using tech to improve all of our store processes,” Gotski said. “It allows for more efficiency and gives us credibility with the students who have grown up in a tech-filled environment.”
They have also given the students the option to order or pre-order their course materials online from the campus bookstore. Online ordering is a popular feature, and usually students choose to pick up their orders in the store. Knowing their preference, the CU Book Store has streamlined the pickup process for those orders (after seeing the great pick-up experience created by BYU), which has had a big impact on the students’ shopping experience. Online orders have increased every semester and the entire process is simple for the students, building a great relationship from the start.
“They go to a terminal, type in their log-in credentials and receive self pick-up instructions for their box of books shelved in a convenient numerical fashion on special shelving. As they leave the area the instructions and box are scanned to validate the pick-up and they’re done, leaving with a great store experience that makes them want to come back later during the first week of classes to buy supplies and other items,” Gotski said. “We have also improved our checkout process in the store with more registers and better line control, making the waiting time for students who don’t order their books ahead of time only about five to seven minutes.”
What has set them apart in recent years is their rental program. They rented 95,000 books and saved students an estimated $4.1 million last year alone, and over the past 5 years this number is even more dramatic at 340,000 books rented with an estimated savings of $13.3 million.
“It really is the most cost-effective way for students to get their books today, understanding that new publisher inclusive access models and OER will have a dramatic impact on lowering course materials costs for them in the future,” Gotski said. “Faculty are starting to understand that if they adopt the same books the next semester, it can save students money and we can maintain an investment in our inventory.”
Gotski recognizes that the CU Book Store is fortunate in many factors. First, they have a beautiful location in Colorado that brings a lot of out of state students to them, keeping enrollment numbers up. They are wholly owned by the university, allowing all of the surpluses to be reinvested into the campus and giving them the financial freedom to implement new technology. Most important of all, though, they have the full support of the administration.
“The administration’s faith in us to run the business has really helped us grow,” Gotski said.