Implementing a new retail system is a big job with a lot of different pieces that need to come together. However, going from an obsolete system to a complete omnichannel retail solution offers benefits that are well worth the effort.
What can an MBS collegiate retail system do for college stores?
Streamline college store functionsThink about how your store operates from day to day. Your retail system should help make the daily functions of your store easier while providing you with more options that customers want. Mobile order fulfillment, eCommerce, reporting, merchandise and textbook management, creating kits, SFA, and rental and digital management are part of what a collegiate retail system can help your store maintain.
“When we found out our previous retail system was quickly becoming obsolete, we started looking at alternate vendors with input from multiple stakeholders immediately. MBS was the top pick for us because of the diverse functionalities of the system — the online eCommerce capabilities, the more thorough reporting tools and the overall cost of the system. The support we have received from the MBS team while implementing the new system has been phenomenal! They have, without hesitation, held our hand throughout the entire process and have made sure we felt adequately trained on everything. We were able to bring our bookstore into year 2020 with a diverse online presence and I am very pleased with how the transition has been going,” said Lower Columbia College Bookstore’s Director of Enterprise Services Alyssa Milano-Hightower, MBA.
Read more about Lower Columbia College Bookstore’s experience implementing a new collegiate retail system on a month-long timeline.
Give you the support and assistance you needHaving support you can count on and a team of people who can help you when you need it is invaluable. The college store website is a great example. You have to be able to update your site frequently with merchandise and information, but also regular site updates that keep it fresh and interesting, too. A collegiate retail system that offers you dedicated support representatives who promptly respond and make website changes for no additional cost or fees gives you a store website that can continue to grow and evolve with your needs and customers.
“It’s all about going with the changes. You just have to be very adaptable. And you do need a system that is going to adapt to the latest offering. We were talking recently about how students try to prepare for jobs that haven’t even been created yet. That’s what we struggle with as stores. What is going to be the trend in two years? Where are we going to be in four years? These things are difficult to predict. You have to be ready to take advantage of opportunities when you can.” Georgia Southern University Store Director Carlita Slatky said.
Read more about how Georgia Southern University Store adapts with retail changes.
Improve customer satisfactionA new collegiate retail system can give you the tools you need to offer customers the omnichannel options and experiences they expect online and in your store. From loyalty programs to student communication, a new retail system can make it easier to offer customers the perks they want both online and in-store like loyalty programs, promo codes, abandoned cart reminders, buyback reminders, clearance sections on websites and more.
“The GM promo code was not something I knew a lot about, quite frankly. After I went to training out there, I feel like the GM promo code is my best friend in inSite. That’s how we run all of our in-store and online promotions. Before we struggled with doing something online, but it wouldn’t correlate to in-store or vice versa. We struggled with that. If you promote something online, people don’t understand that it is just online. Or, if it is in-store, it’s not online. I don’t like the confusion with that. If something is on sale, I want it to be on sale in-store or online. The GM promo code is basically the answer to that for me. That’s how I have found to use it. So I stay away from promotional codes and we go with the GM promo code so we can say 20 percent off of this item in-store and online. There is no confusion at all. It’s been such a great tool to use,” West Chester University Web Store Specialist Ryan McCormick said.
How can college stores prepare for implementation?
So, let’s say you have decided to invest in a new retail system for your store. What’s next? How can your college store prepare for the change?
- Set a go-live date for your new system
The implementation timeline is vital to the success of the project. Chances are you only have a narrow window where you can get a new system up and going. The implementation timeline will make sure you have everything lined up and ready to go for your launch date, giving you a smooth transition to a new system.
“To begin with, we worked with the MBS Systems Sales Manager in July of 2020. He helped us align all of the necessary stakeholders prior to launching the project. Then the whole process really kicked off with Angela Gray [Senior Systems Consultant]. I had an introductory call with her where she made it really clear what the project scope looked like and what she would need from me to get things rolling. From there, we hit the ground sprinting! We had the install set for September 2, 2020, and we went live with our brand-new website on September 8, 2020. The next week, we were fulfilling online orders,” Milano-Hightower said. “Matt Simmons [Systems Engineer Installer] came out to do the physical install with our IT team here. We really worked with everyone through this process, and I couldn’t be happier! Jerrica and Patrick from inSite, Glenna and Melissa from Arc … everyone was there to help us the whole time, and it made such a big difference.”
- Talk to campus stakeholders early and often
Depending on your store goals, your system will need to integrate with different campus departments. If students can use SFA to purchase textbooks, you would need to facilitate interaction between MBS and your bursar’s office to integrate with the system. From the very beginning, it is good to start speaking with IT and any other campus department you will need to work with for a smooth implementation.
“The importance of our website did a 180. I started in January of 2019 and the site needed to be updated. I worked with Jerrica Leonard [inSite Support] to really beef up the site and make it more modern. I didn’t think we really needed to take it further, but then COVID happened. We soon realized that we needed to do more to get the site where it needed to be. We ended up getting financial aid added, all of our supplies are on there now and we beefed up our digital options. We really did not see much of a decrease in sales. It was down from the previous year, but we held strong, even into the fall. We were surprised by the number of students who went to our website and were able to easily navigate it and place their orders.” Joe Buskirk, Coordinator for the College Store, Harford Community College said.
Read more about how Harford Community College Store strengthened its eCommerce site.
- Ask questions
There will be a lot to learn in a short amount of time about your new system. Ask a lot of questions and devote the necessary time to system training. You want to make sure you can get the most out of your new system and learn all the ways it can help your store. When you speak with the system experts, ask specific questions about how you can achieve your ultimate store goals with the new system.
“Implementation can be difficult because you are trying to take data from one system and put it into another while learning that new system. MBS certainly did a good job training and preparing us for the transition. Angela Gray [MBS implementation specialist] was here on our ‘go-live’ date, which I am so thankful for. The go-live date went better than I anticipated. One of the things we wanted with our new system was a loyalty program. Angela and the implementation team suggested that we get all of the have-tos done and working first, and then we could work on the ‘Oh, and this would be nice, too’ projects. We ended up bringing the new loyalty program live in November of 2017, so we’re just coming up on our second anniversary of that program. We did a few things in phases. That was good advice,” Slatky said.
If you have questions about the MBS Store Technology Solutions collegiate retail system, email us at [email address].