When faced with moving to a smaller location, the Belmont Store changed their textbook distribution and delivery to take the student experience to the next level.
Managing Director Auxiliary Services Keith Chapman saw the opportunity to implement a creative textbook distribution solution that would benefit students and the campus when the Belmont Store was moved to smaller yet easily accessible historic site that would give the community greater access to the store.
“The university decided to move our operation to a smaller location. We could no longer accommodate textbooks on campus,” Chapman said. “We had to be creative. We knew we had a good partner in MBS, so we approached MBS quickly and went to work.”
A custom store solution designed for student success
Belmont students would need a simple and convenient way to get their course materials by the start of class. Looking at all the options available for course material distribution, Chapman decided a custom solution designed for their campus would work best.
The virtual bookstore would give students an official, convenient channel to order their textbooks, but there was an opportunity to also ensure more students had their materials by the start of class. They implemented an opt-out auto order solution through MBS Direct.
“Students can go into the system and select what they want to purchase or what they don’t. If the students don’t go into the system at all, the books associated with their schedule are automatically shipped,” Chapman said. “With it being online, they can shop anytime, anywhere.”
Going beyond shipping books directly to students, Belmont University offers students several delivery options, taking the student experience to the next level. Students can now select from three different free shipping options.
“The first is free shipment to their homes. MBS ships the books and we pay for the shipping. Or, MBS will drop ship us pallets of books. We take those pallets and do one of two things: We either deliver to the residence halls free of charge, or we put the books in a select location for pickup,” Chapman said. “When students have their books delivered to their dormitory, we pay the residence hall staff a dollar per box of books to put them into the student’s room. This gives the residence halls money that can go toward a student event or programming. If a student chooses to pick up their books, we staff a location where students can pick up their books for the first 14 days of the semester.”
Communication is key to campus buy-in
Switching the campus to a completely different textbook distribution system doesn’t come without challenges. For the Belmont Store, that was gaining faculty and student buy-in for the program. Chapman and his team worked with the available university and bookstore resources to develop a marketing strategy that ensured all students and faculty were informed about the new program.
To reach students and parents, they developed a three-minute presentation to give during student orientation, sent letters and emails, and posted to social media explaining how the new program worked.
“I recommend spending the money upfront so that the students get it. And, I recommend getting in front of parents as much as possible, in any way possible,” Chapman said. “When we initiated this program last fall, we marketed it extremely heavily. We sent two rounds of letters to the homes: one addressed to students and one addressed to parents. We did a lot of email blasts. We did a lot of giveaways. We developed a three-minute presentation that we give every semester during orientation. Now, we continue to do email blasts and all the social media stuff, but we no longer have to spend as much in terms of letters and postage.”
Understanding that faculty were also vital to the program’s success, Chapman spoke to as many campus faculty groups as he could and enlisted the help of the administration.
“First and foremost, we had tremendous support from our provost. Our provost has been excellent at speaking with faculty and bringing them into the program. Our textbook manager notifies the provost when he hasn’t gotten an adoption or when someone calls wanting to change a book at the last minute or other issues like that. The provost helps us by addressing those issues.” Chapman said. “In addition, we speak to the faculty senate at least once a year. We speak at the Fall Faculty Forum once a year. We go to department meetings when we’re asked, and we speak at the provost council which involves all the deans. That has really begun to make a difference. We can see the support lining up behind the program.”
Distribution designed for student convenience
Coming out of the third semester with the new distribution in place, more students buy at least some of their course materials through the bookstore, and students are giving positive feedback about the program.
“We have had some students comment about how convenient the system is. They also comment that the MBS pricing model on some titles is very competitive, and they appreciate the on-campus services we do like the dorm delivery,” Chapman said. “The parents are particularly impressed with the on-campus services we offer. We get a lot of standard full orders from the parents because of the convenience. They know their student will have the materials they need in their hands the first day of class — the professors appreciate that too."