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How Washington and Lee University Store Utilizes Business Intelligence

Posted by Liz Schulte on 10/26/20 6:15 AM
Topics: campus ecommerce solution, benefits of online retail, college bookstore ecommerce

For the Washington and Lee University Store, detailed reporting is a must. They partnered with MBS Store Technology Solutions for their collegiate retail system in 2015 and found that the stronger, more detailed reporting better served their business intelligence needs.

How Washington and Lee University Store Utilizes Business Intelligence“We were with our previous provider for 10 to 15 years. With any change, there is a learning curve. You are used to doing things in a certain way, so we had a few bumps in the road learning how our new system works. The MBS system has provided a lot more reporting and information. I think it panned out really well for us. There is no limit to better reporting, but I think we have found a good groove with getting the information we need from our system,” Washington and Lee University Store Associate Director April Washburn said. “We are possibly an atypical school with how detailed we are with our information. We care about everything down to the color of the pen. We treat everything individually. It’s been really helpful to be able to drill down and get those details from the system. I think overall we have had a really good experience.”

As the coronavirus swept across the globe and communities shut down, strong reporting became even more important for the store.

“When the university shut down in March, our website was still up and running. We had to figure out how to get through graduation and get our students their caps, gowns and diploma frames. It was right at grad fair when it happened, so we had to turn things very quickly. We also had to, for the first time, send out call tags for all of our rental textbooks that were spread out all over the country,” Washburn said. “I was tracking all of our sales every week during COVID, using inSite reporting. I just wanted to see how our sales were actually doing during that time. We looked at everything: the department, the class, the individual items. Those reports are invaluable to me. I actually have some right here. The reports tell us what we are physically selling, and we base our reorders on that information. Right now, I am mostly running sales reports. I look at things we need to reorder, enter brand new items and Meg adds new items to our website through inSite. When I am in Arc, I will look at the merchandise information or the buyers’ trends. I look at that very regularly.”

“Generally, for us, every new insignia item that comes in gets added to the website, but the flow was a little different this year because we added sundries and more school supplies,” Washington and Lee University Store Marketing Manager Meg Beebe said. “Since the pandemic, we have been heavier on supplies and putting up what students need so that they don’t have to come into the store to shop. That was the biggest change to what we offer on our website.”

“It was exciting to see the new items that we pushed out getting purchased. We were like ‘Yeah, they’re actually seeing that information,’” Washburn said. “Meg created a great product landing page. It has different categories like PPE, sundries, school supplies and technology. We had to get all of our calculators and headphones up on the website. Really anything that was non-insignia. We are still kind of in progress with that, determining how much more we should put up there.”

Like the college store, the collegiate retail system must also constantly evolve with changing needs and expectations for service. Part of what makes that evolution possible is reliable support.

“We also have some really great staff at MBS and inSite that we work with. It’s a really good group of people who understand what we are asking and are very responsive. That’s been a really big bonus.”

When it comes to sharing the store’s website with their campus community, the store relies on social media to help spread the word.

“We have Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts for the store. Instagram seems to be the best platform to reach our students,” Beebe said. “The University has a newsletter that goes out daily to students and faculty called Campus Notices. We can advertise there and on display monitors around campus. But generally, we just like to have a strong social media presence. We get the most information out that way.”


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