With more importance than ever before placed on online shopping, stores are doing what they can to improve customers’ eCommerce experience and better compete. College stores have fewer resources than large online competitors, but they have a greater ability to continue to offer customers a personal touch — even online. Today, we have five tips to engage the campus community from afar.
5 ways to strengthen your collegiate retail online shopping experience
- Make a plan to convert abandoned carts.
Your store doesn’t have to spend a lot of time following up on abandoned online shopping carts. You can quickly set up an automatic email to customers who don’t complete online checkout. Some customers may have legitimately forgotten to complete their purchase and welcome a reminder. Others might have changed their mind. Giving a quick, gentle nudge is an easy way to increase sell-through and generate more revenue.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County Bookstore uses MBS inSite’s automated abandoned cart messages to remind customers to complete checkout.
“We also send out an email to people who abandon their online shopping cart. I don’t want to hassle people, but it is good to send the reminder. I know I have been looking for something online, put it in a cart and then my kids come in to ask me a question. I put my phone down and completely forget about it. Later I see it sitting in my cart and I am like ‘Oh yeah, I meant to buy that.’ The email is automatic. We don’t have to do anything. It is set to send after one week. Just a single email reminder that says ‘Hey, you put this in your cart and never came back,’” said UMBC Bookstore Director Erin McGonigle.
- Include a personal message with online orders
Small acts of kindness can go a long way. When filling online orders, include a personal note to the customer. This simple act reminds them that your store isn’t an impersonal big business. You are part of the campus community and you genuinely care about their health and safety.
“We add a card in each of the packages with a little note wishing the student luck or letting them know that we hope they are well. Things like that. We know with everything going on, a lot of people are having a hard time,” said SUNY Potsdam College Store Director Lyndon Lake.
- Promotional codes are an easy way to create FOMO online.
FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. Limited time offers and promotional codes are a great way to encourage customers to act on any purchase they have been thinking about making. More importantly, it also provides a good reason to buy from your website.
“If we send out a promo code, we see it used pretty quickly. We hadn’t tracked promo codes before because we didn’t use them that often, but we have had to switch gears and it seems to be working,” said UMBC Bookstore Director Erin McGonigle.
- Make it easy for customers to find what they want on your site.
From responsive web design to being able to quickly find the merchandise they are looking for, customers expect an easy online experience. Your website should give customers an array of filtering options to help them quickly locate the specific items they want.
College stores with the MBS system can easily set up inSite filters to give shoppers a better overall experience. In a few simple steps, you can improve customers’ online shopping experience on your site. Read this post to learn more about MBS merchandise filters.
- Offer options that increase customer convenience
Right now, customers are looking for convenient and safe ways to shop. Whether that means accepting student financial aid on your eCommerce site or planning safe drive-through events, finding ways to increase customer convenience can help strengthen your store.
For example, the Dixie State University Campus Store held a drive-up buyback event. The store was able to get 81 percent of their rentals returned. Convenient options like this help the college store and campus community in uncertain times.
“We set up cones and signs to direct students through the buyback. When they arrived, they would either go to the drive-through lane or there was also a pedestrian lane off to the side. We had two employees working outside under the shade tent with a laptop. When a student would pull up, Mary would greet them through the passenger side window of their car, putting more distance between them, and take their books. She also wore her mask all day. Once she had the books, they were divided onto a table in stacks for retail, wholesale and rental,” said Dixie State University Campus Store Textbook Manager Claudia West.
The University of Utah Campus Store brought in more than $1 million in sales with curbside event.
“Well, as you know, most stores are closed to foot traffic. We still wanted to do our annual Apple® event, but in order to do that, it had to be through online order pickup, or we could ship orders directly to customers’ homes. We found a lot of people still wanted the store experience. Even though they weren't coming inside the store, they liked that they were able to drive up to the store and talk to someone. It gave them a chance to ask questions like what adapter they needed. We were able to help them outside,” Alex Parra, Associate Director, University of Utah Campus Store.
College stores are faced with uncertainty as they make plans for fall. Many may not know the extent campuses will be open next term. Now is a good time to make sure your website helps elevate the customer experience and makes shopping with your store easy.