A while back, I had the opportunity to attend the ICBA conference in Jacksonville, Florida. I’d always been curious about the conference and how it differed from other industry events. As the Marketing Director for MBS, I knew the logistical requirements for exhibitors, but I really didn’t know what to expect from the sessions and presentations. I had heard great things and recently have witnessed ICBA’s membership explode. So, when given the opportunity to experience their meeting, I jumped at the chance.
The variety of sessions and the incredible, dynamic speakers were inspiring. The presenters offered relevant, tactical solutions to help college stores evolve during a tumultuous time, but I quickly noticed a theme emerging in all of the sessions. As new trends, strategies and services were presented, the audience consistently wanted to know the same thing.
“How do we…
invest in new technology
market more effectively
and remain relevant
… with fewer resources and less support than ever before?”
As suggestions and solutions were presented, one single thought kept rolling through my mind, “Stores can do this with MBS’ virtual bookstore.” In our Business Encounter sessions, several store directors listened to MBS present our custom store solution. A custom store solution is a hybrid solution between a campus store and a virtual bookstore.
As the sessions went on, I realized that more college retailers needed to know the value a virtual bookstore provides. A custom store solution can help stores successfully reinvent themselves and provide the additional support stores desperately need.
Pivot toward the future
Our custom store solution lets stores remove the hassle and overhead associated with procuring, inventorying and selling course materials. By moving textbook operations to a virtual bookstore, stores free up time and space to focus on GM. Stores can also become the campus-centric academic support center that faculty and students need. With the MBS virtual bookstore, students benefit from increased convenience, options and support with 24/7 chat, email or phone customer service.
In The Evolution and Revolution of Retail in 2019 session, Tom Schwaurtztrauber from Nestlé Purina shared seven strategies for college stores. Of those seven, three especially resonated with me.
Remove pain points to create growth opportunities.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the process around selling (and purchasing) course materials is a major pain point. You find yourself:
- Pivoting as publishers introduce new formats — inclusive access, publisher consignment rental, “all-you-can learn” subscriptions, etc.
- Dependent on timely adoptions, all the while needing to meet faculty’s expectations
- Serving students who don’t perceive buying course materials as a fun or necessary purchase
- Living in a paradox where your store is expected to maintain or increase profits yet increase student affordability
At MBS, we see more schools — organically or through the RFP process — asking for solutions that help them remove textbooks from their stores and create a frictionless experience for students. This is not a coincidence.
Stores have to invest more resources into textbook management, and it is negatively affecting the service you can provide students. Our 24/7 contact center’s resolution times are longer than ever because purchasing course materials is more complicated. That’s one reason schools choose to partner with MBS Direct for course material distribution. We assume the time and labor devoted to distributing textbooks and resolving concerns, letting you devote your time elsewhere.
Broaden your scope to secure your brand.
By freeing employee time and store space with a virtual bookstore, our customers can focus on:
- More thoughtful GM curation that allows for higher-margin items
- Becoming a retail destination and creating outstanding customer experiences
- Being an academic support center
- Providing an omni-channel experience by providing in-store support for virtual bookstore shoppers. Some of our partners use their physical space for ordering kiosks, on-site distribution and returns and end-of-term buybacks. We will work with you to create a custom solution that works best for your school.
Create an ecosystem through partnerships.
As Schwaurtztrauber said, “Slim the choices. You can’t be everything to everyone.” Smart retailers (not just collegiate) partner with niche vendors who are experts in their space and have the economy of scale to serve customers more effectively. These partnerships can be outside your school or within and give you the opportunity to provide the sleek, dynamic experiences today’s consumers demand.
MBS has course material procurement and distribution down to a science. No matter the format or option — inclusive access, Marketplace shopping, renting vs purchasing, digital delivered via the LMS or directly — MBS can meet every demand. And when we ship, orders deliver on-time and accurately 99.9% of the time. We have over nearly 700 clients and have been operating virtual bookstores since 1992.
All seven of Schwaurtztrauber’s strategies offered inspiring business insight. After his presentation, one of the best questions asked was,
Schwaurtztrauber suggested looking at your store’s largest costs. He said they are usually labor and supply chain-related. That’s where your store can decrease expenses and use that money to invest in what will bring your store the highest return. Moving to an MBS virtual bookstore allows your store to invest in other areas, provide valuable academic and retail solutions, remain relevant on campus, diminish consumers’ pain points and provide customers a more frictionless experience.
To learn more about ingenious ways schools use our custom store solutions, ask your MBS marketing representative.