Over the course of 2020, eCommerce sites became even more important for college store success. Suddenly, it was essential that most of the store’s merchandise and products were available and easily accessible online. We recently sat down with Joe Buskirk, Coordinator for the College Store, Harford Community College, to discuss how they were able to quickly update their site to better serve students and the campus community.
Like many stores, the College Store at Harford Community College had been slowly working on updating its site, but not necessarily offering every product online. However, in March of 2020 everything changed.
“The importance of our website did a 180. I started in January of 2019 and the site needed to be updated. I worked with Jerrica Leonard [inSite Support] to really beef up the site and make it more modern. I didn’t think we really needed to take it further, but then COVID happened. We soon realized that we needed to do more to get the site where it needed to be,” Buskirk said. “We ended up getting financial aid added, all of our supplies are on there now and we beefed up our digital options. We really did not see much of a decrease in sales. It was down from the previous year, but we held strong, even into the fall. We were surprised by the number of students who went to our website and were able to easily navigate it and place their orders.”
Keeping the college store website updated
The college store website is a living project. There are always tweaks, changes and updates that need to be made to keep information up to date and a good user experience.
“If you ask Jerrica, she will probably tell you that I look at every detail of the site all the time. I really look at it semester to semester. However, I also like to keep it updated during the term as well. We have a banner slide at the top. We make sure those slides stay updated and current,” Buskirk said. “Also, I have an event calendar on the site. It doesn’t do as much now as it did when we were open, but it allows the students to know if we have extended hours or when financial aid starts. Things like that. I like to keep the rental information screen as current as I can and let students know about promotions.”
However, making changes to a website requires time and someone with that specific skillset. As part of the College Store’s partnership with MBS Store Technology Solutions, it has a dedicated inSite representative to help make changes, updates and site redesigns.
“It’s so great having your inSite rep because you can instantly get things done. I email her changes and she gets back to me quickly — like within the hour or day. She lets me know the change has been made or when it will be done or even if she is waiting on something. When we didn’t have her, it really slowed the process down and it took a while to get things going,” Buskirk said. “It’s just instantaneous with our rep. Yesterday I sent her two or three things, and I had them within the hour. It just makes it easy. I can make updates on the main page, but when it comes to the inner pages and the code, I really rely on her.”
Improving the student experience
Now that the store has all of its products and merchandise available on the website, Buskirk focuses more attention on the user-friendliness of the site and how it can be tweaked or improved .
“I use the cart abandonment report to see where any issues might be in the site navigation. I can go back and look where the student left the site to see if I need to make a change or not. I really focus on the user-friendliness of the site,” Buskirk said.
Through his experience working with the college store site, Buskirk has learned a few tips that help him stay on top of the website.
“Never be afraid to ask for help. Also, make sure that you always have someone else look over your site. Sometimes you can be on autopilot and you may not see something the way other people will. So, having that second set of eyes on the site really helps,” Buskirk said. “Make sure to update the site as often as you can. Some things might be okay to leave up for a semester, but other stuff might need to be updated monthly or even daily at times.”