You might have realized by now that your students are an opinionated crowd, and one that loves a good opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions with their peers. And with debates and general election talk being in the news so frequently, now is a great time to get your students involved by encouraging them to rock the vote in some fun bookstore-related elections, polls and debates.
Student debates & forums
Your students have opinions about a lot of things. Perhaps of most interest to your store is what they think about the ways course materials, specifically their costs and the effect those costs have on their lives and education. While you are constantly on the lookout for ways to save them money, the students themselves may have some creative new cost-saving ideas that your staff has never considered and may actually want to try out.
You can do this in a couple of ways. First, you can set up a mock debate where you select students to either argue for or against a certain issue. For example, you could create a debate where one side argues in favor of bundling textbooks with tuition while the other side argues against it. Students don’t even necessarily have to personally believe in the side they’re arguing for; this is still a great opportunity for them to research and learn more about the topics your store sees debated throughout the collegiate retail industry on a regular basis.
The other option is to just hold an open forum where students can come in and share their opinions without having to necessarily argue with another group or individual. It may be best to just set aside a night or afternoon where you can hold the forum and solicit students’ opinions all at once.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s to your benefit to provide some kind of incentive for student participation. A method that we think would find a lot of success is to offer a prize for the student(s) that either “win” (chosen at your discretion) your debate, or offer what you deem to be the best idea or suggestion during your open forum event. You can make the prize whatever you’d like, of course, but it may be best to stick with the theme and give them a chance to win something related to course materials.
Opening the polls
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We've provided a few different ideas and suggestions for getting your students together to vote on a few different things. But before we get to the nitty gritty of the different topics, it’s important to discuss how to go about collecting that information.
You can collect your voting information in any number of ways, but the methods that are likely to have the most success are in-store questionnaires, online forms and social media (the latter two can be combined in many cases). For questionnaires, you can either give students a piece of paper to fill out, or ask one of your employees to greet your customers while collecting answers to the questions you want to ask.
Online forms can be set up on a number of sites, and you can choose between providing an open-ended question for students to answer however they’d like or having your answers set up as a limited, multiple choice format. Either way, it will be to your benefit to take your online form(s) and promote it through social media, especially if you use an easily trackable, customized hashtag for the promotion. You can even choose to leave out the middle man by soliciting responses just through your social media sites, and leave the online form out altogether. It’s up to you.
But no matter what option or method you choose, it’s always smart to provide some kind of incentive for your students’ participation. A couple of ways to accomplish this is to either give a small prize (say 10 percent off a certain item in the store) to every person that provides feedback, or enter each responder into a raffle for one big prize (maybe a tech gadget or free books during the following semester). Again, it’s up to you to decide, as both scenarios have their merits.
But with that said, let’s get into the different areas where you might want to get your students’ votes:
Topic idea: What do students love about your store?
Whether they’re in there to buy books, a new sweatshirt or a package of pencils, your students spend a lot of time in your bookstore each term, and they know what your strengths are. You surely have an idea of the things you’re good at as well, but by polling your students on their thoughts, you’ll be able to gain an even better understanding of what students like the most. You can then use those answers to come up with promotions and ideas that are geared toward providing students opportunities to interact with those parts of your store that they’re most fond of.
Topic idea: What is your students’ favorite thing about your campus?
Knowing what places and things your students love about your school’s campus can be a big help to your store, especially if you enjoy hosting events that occur outside of the walls of your actual store. Poll your students to get their opinions, and when the voting has been closed and the most popular location decided, do your best to create some event that incorporates that place on your campus.
Topic idea: What could be improved?
Not all of the feedback you receive has to be about gathering new ideas or improving things you already do well. Take advantage of this opinion-gathering opportunity to learn about the things that your students think you could be doing better. This should be a great chance to further improve your customer relations by showing your customers that you value their opinion, and to potentially get more sales by implementing the improvements suggested in the answers on your students’ surveys.
Topic idea: What new products should you feature?
Thinking about bringing a new product to your shelves, but can’t decide on which one? Leave it up to your students and have them vote on what it’ll be. Not only will you get some helpful attention and feedback, but you will theoretically see better sales on that item because it has already proven to be desirable. So whether it’s a new novel, t-shirt or coffee mug, put it up for a vote and let your students decide for you! They’ll appreciate the opportunity to share their opinion and have their voice be heard.