Effectively communicating with students about changes has been one of the biggest challenges for bookstores recently. Many stores have developed new and successful communication channels by working with campus stakeholders. For example, working with campus marketing to send out announcements or putting reminders in the LMS.
“Other than that, communicating with students has been our biggest challenge. Students need to understand that they actually have to turn in the books to the store. We had students that made appointments from Hawaii, which is great. We can meet virtually, but they have to get the books back here. When you figure shipping, then is the buyback even worth it for them? That was something we learned as we went that we needed to better emphasize to students,” Peninsula College Director of Enterprise Services Camilla Rico said. “We used a three-pronged communication strategy. We used Facebook to communicate with students about our buyback. We also asked our school to help communicate with students. And, we used the MBS platform, too. The buyback settings in inSite makes it easy to email the student who purchased their books from the store and tell them what they can get for those books. I modified that email in inSite to include the information about setting an appointment with the store. I am not sure exactly which one yielded the most results, but this was the first time we were able to partner with the school, which was great. I think we found a pretty successful way to hold a buyback even with our store closed.”
As you develop your marketing strategy to communicate with both on-campus and remote students this term, consider using these methods.
Email still reigns king in effective communication. This reliable source helps you pass along a lot of information, easily and effectively. According to a Barnes & Noble College Student Pulse survey, six out of 10 students said that emails from the bookstore influence them to shop there.
A few tips that might help you craft your email and improve your open rates are:
- Put the most important information in the subject. You might have a lot of information in the email that is important, but if you could pick one thing that you want to make sure students are aware of, that is what needs to be in the subject line. More students will read the subject line than actually open your email.
- Send multiple emails. You don’t want to annoy students, but most of your email list will not open the message you send out. So, don’t plan to just send one email. Send at least 3-5 emails on any subject you want to make sure students know about.
- Keep your emails concise and to the point. Consider how people are most likely to read your email: on their phone while doing other things. Make the email easy to scan and help the important information stand out with formatting. Try to have one clear call to action in each email.
“We have been doing direct email and social media. I am fortunate enough to work directly with a great marketing department who handles all of our social media posts. We post up on our website as much as we can. At this point, we are not able to text students, so email is really our primary form of communication. We try to be as clear and concise as possible. We found that it is important not to just send out a single email message with the hope that everyone will read it. We follow up on that initial email and keep following up. We wanted to make sure as many students as possible understood. We had our struggles, but the overall outcome was really well received. Students were really appreciative of the communication,” Southeast Technical College Bookstore Manager Jason Skiff said.
Ordering textbooks 1
Subject: Order your books online from the campus store
Did you know the campus store is open?
But you don't have to make a trip to the campus to get your books this term. Simply order your books online today [Link].
Why should you order from the campus store?
- It supports a small business and your school.
- You can be sure that you will get the right books in time for classes to start.
- The campus store price matches! If you find a better price on qualifying books somewhere else, let us know. We will match the price.
- You can pay with student financial aid and campus tenders.
Order your books today!
Ordering textbooks 2
Subject: Get [shipping promotion] when you order your books from the campus store
Don't miss this opportunity to save big on shipping.
Grab the books you need for your classes this term and have them delivered directly to your house. Simply go to the campus store website and place your order. [Link]
Did you know that when you buy from the campus store [fill in with something that is true for your school. Like some of the proceeds help fund student scholarships, you can earn loyalty points, you support a local business and student jobs, etc.]
Order your books today!
Text messaging is a great tool to get quick updates to students. Not all college stores have this capability available to them, but if you do, make sure you are utilizing this direct line to students in the best way possible.
Here are some tips to help you craft concise text messages:
- Keep the messages less than 160 characters.
- The message should be clear and concise.
- Don’t forget to give the students an action to take (Buy now, click here, etc.).
- Don’t text too soon. Text messages should be sent as close to the event as possible so the recipient can read the message and act immediately.
You can read more about SMS Marketing here.
A lot of stores we have spoken with in the past year have discovered that they can work with IT administrators to add important reminders in the LMS. Students use the LMS daily, so having static reminders on that platform can help you spread the word about important bookstore dates, like ordering textbooks.
How to set this up is to simply find out who updates the LMS on your campus. Schedule a meeting or send an email to that person explaining the situation. Let’s say you want to put up an ordering reminder. Email the person in charge and let them know that this important deadline is coming up for students and you want to make sure every student knows about it. Ask if this is something they can help you with. They might say no, but they also might say yes and then you have one more opportunity to grab the students’ attention.
“We have an employee, Catherine, who does a great job getting information out on Facebook and Instagram. We also filmed a video during buyback that we shared on those pages and we emailed all of our rental students. Catherine also created a banner announcing the buyback which we put on Canvas. Canvas is accessible to all students now that all courses are online,” Dixie State University Campus Store Textbook Manager Claudia West said. “The students have to get into Canvas to do their homework. The minute a student logged into Canvas and, right across the top was an image telling them about the curbside buyback. It was amazing how many students were notified that way. The banner was up on Canvas for a week.”
This one may seem obvious, but don’t forget to keep your site updated with the latest information from the bookstore. Make seasonal changes to your website to direct students about what they need to do now.
Another way stores have had success is by adding instructional videos to their website to help students understand different processes. For example, you could record your screen as you walk students through how to place an online order. This simple instruction can help any student that is having issues and also help keep your website content fresh.
“Recently, I recorded my screen and posted a video that walks students through the process start to finish. I started with the registrar link and went all the way through the checkout so students can feel comfortable with placing an online order from the NWTC Bookstore. We posted the video on the front page of our website because we anticipate getting a lot of phone calls asking how to get started,” NWTC Bookstore and The Buzz Coffee Shop Manager Gretchen Bonnema said. “It’s not that we don’t want to talk to students, but we only have so many resources. Being able to offer students a convenient way to answer the question and save time definitely helps us and them. With the increased prevalence of eBooks this term, I also created a video about how to access digital textbooks. We are helping students by giving them the tools they will need to work with us.”
Finally, don’t forget to schedule social media updates. When you are planning what you will post, keep in mind the different audiences you are likely to reach on each platform. On Facebook, you are more likely to reach alumni, parents, faculty and staff. On Twitter, people might be looking for more updates and concrete information. On Instagram, people are more likely to expect posts about sales and GM products with just a few announcements sprinkled in.
Another thing to consider is utilizing live videos on social media channels. Did you know that when you do a live stream on Instagram, it pushes a notification to all of your followers? If you have someone on staff who is comfortable on camera and doesn’t mind being a bit silly, consider setting up a schedule of live videos to help promote store events. Also, don’t forget to have the host wear merchandise available in your store.
“Videos are a great way to engage because students are less likely to scroll by. It’s an easy way to convey relevant information in a (hopefully) fun way. When I make a silly video, I don’t care if the students are laughing with me or at me, as long as they are watching. Because if they watch, they may learn about a new process or product they may have missed had they scrolled past a photo or plain text. I always make sure to wear current products when making the videos. After one of our earlier videos, we had more requests about the sweatshirt I was wearing in the video than about whatever I was talking about. That was instructive. The lesson was squeeze as much information, even indirectly, into the video as possible,” Salisbury University Bookstore’s Merchandiser Bryan Hailey said.