Fall term is underway. As campuses settle into a new routine, many college stores have made it through the first rush with COVID-19 restrictions. In preparation for this term, stores made updates to help protect students and staff and provide faster, more convenient service. Today, let’s review some of the most popular college store updates for fall.
Reducing touch points with counter service
With social distancing and limited occupancy, counter service helps college stores control foot traffic and improve student convenience.
“We did rearrange the store putting the register counters up close to the door, so we could offer counter service only. We also put hand sanitizer outside the door and a sign that asked everyone to use it before entering. All of this helped us control who could come inside and the amount of exposure. Facilities also provided us with gloves and cleaning supplies.
“So, when spring quarter began, we only had two people working, which included me and one part-time temporary worker. We required that students use hand sanitizer and most people were wearing masks. At this time, masks were not required, so we just stood a little further away when talking with the customers. Between each transaction, we wiped down the register and credit card machine. When a customer used a pen, it would go into the used pen slot. When we had about five to 10 pens in there, we would clean them all and let them dry before returning them to the new pen container,” said Clatsop Community College Bookstore/Copy Center Manager and Adjunct Professor Denise Russell.
Read more about Clatsop Community College Bookstore here.
Order fulfillment options give students convenient service
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, college stores have been working to add additional order fulfillment options for students. When in-store shopping and buybacks are not available, adding options like curbside pickup, shipping and alternative pickup locations has given students a way to get the necessary supplies from the bookstore.
“In summer, we only gave the option to order online, and in fall, we are strongly encouraging online orders since we now have limited in-store capacity for retail sales. We have offered students a curbside pickup option where they can remain in their car and we walk out orders to them. That has been a real hit. Normally in summer, we process about 500 orders online, but this summer we had about 1,600 online, with about half choosing curbside pickup and half choosing to have their order shipped to their residential address.
“For fall, we are also offering the option to pick up orders at one of our regional center locations at no charge. Since we are the largest community college district by land mass in the state of Illinois, covering all or parts of fifteen different counties, this is a popular choice for students placing online orders. This also allows us to consolidate orders going to each regional center and deliver them there twice a week, so it’s more efficient than processing each individual order for home delivery,” said Lincoln Land Community College’s Director of Campus Services Andrew Blaylock.
Read more about Lincoln Land Community College Bookstore here.
A focus on website and student communication strengthens campus relationships
The campus relationships college stores have are more important than ever, especially those with students. Many college stores have strengthened their online communication channels to ensure they are able to get students and faculty the information they need for the fall term and beyond.
“Doing a fall semester completely online is very different than doing late starting spring classes or summer semester online. For the past couple of weeks, we have been working on overhauling our website. When we are open, we are a counter service store — I like to say full service. So our team is working to identify the conversations we usually have at the front of the store with the students. We need to find a way to transfer that information online.
“Luckily, because we are an MBS systems user, we use inSite for eCommerce solutions. inSite has a ton of flexibility that allows us to be creative and keep the students informed. We can put notes on individual courses and books, and we can link out to different catalogs that we have built for supplies. We are a technical college, very hands-on learning. There are a lot of courses that require supplies. We have built those catalogs online, and with inSite, we can link those catalogs to the course materials so students can easily access everything they need. We are also using registrar link which is a great product from MBS. Students log in to their portal and they get exactly the books they need. There is no concern about students getting the wrong course number or anything like that,” said NWTC Bookstore and The Buzz Coffee Shop Manager Gretchen Bonnema.
Read more about the NWTC Bookstore here.
On-campus delivery ensures all students can get the supplies they need
One trend this fall is on-campus delivery. Some stores have worked with residential life or other necessary campus departments to help ensure students have the supplies they need without having to come to the store. This convenient option lets students have their purchases brought directly to them.
“The store ships the package or delivers it to the student’s house. The store staff will again include a note in each one of those boxes with some kind words. We've had a couple students who have had a parent pass away because of the coronavirus. Or, maybe they're struggling financially or emotionally. Our staff just wants to let them know we are thinking about them,” said SUNY Potsdam College Store Director Lyndon Lake.
Read more about the SUNY Potsdam College Store here.
Expanded online shopping brings more opportunities to increase online sales
Before COVID-19, some college stores might not have been diligent about offering the same merchandise you can get in the store online. Since, stores have been finding new ways to offer students more of the inventory they would naturally come to the store to buy. In doing so, they have discovered that by increasing online shopping capabilities, they can increase the amount of space available in their college stores.
“About two years ago, I saw we had a need for an online scrub store. We were teaching a lot of remote LPN programs across the state of South Dakota. So, I started developing that service a couple years ago. When all of this happened, I already had that in place. With COVID-19, I started thinking about the dressing room. It wasn’t going to be a good environment. Do we want hundreds of students in and out of that fitting room? We were going to have to do it differently.
“We provide uniforms to students and faculty for over 17 programs from scrubs to law enforcement to shop shirts. We decided to make it all a little more friendly to our students and take out the middleman. They don’t have to come here and try the scrubs on. I am working with our vendor on setting up a site and adding in all of the options they could get in the store. Students will go online to our scrub and uniform site, order the uniform and have it direct shipped. We are paying for the shipping for that as well. It is another added service utilizing our current vendor. We also worked out a system for how this can still work for scholarship students, because the majority of our students have scholarships. This will help eliminate that rush of students to the store all at once, and it increases convenience and improves our customer service. We would love to see students in the store, but right now, that isn’t the best option. This online store will provide a lot of benefits to us and the students,” said Southeast Technical College Bookstore Manager Jason Skiff.
Read more about Southeast Technical College Bookstore here.