According to a survey by OnCampus Research (2012), 48% of students buy books from sources other than the college store. One of the ways many stores are combating this growing issue is with transparency through a price comparison program. However, this service is only effective if students are aware of it and understand how to use it.
VandalStore at University of Idaho found a solution to that issue. The store went live with their price comparison last July and, from the start, they knew that promotion would be the key to its success. They recently integrated several “Price Comparison Kiosks” into their store, which are simply a computer station with a browser set to default to their store website or VandalWeb, their students’ course registration site. They’ve used this basic concept to generate buzz about their program and get students excited about the offering.
“We set the stations up in the front of the store during buyback this semester with big signs advertising the program,” explained Claudia Wohlfeil, textbook manager. “Students can just walk right up and see how we compare on the titles they need for class. Our cashiers were also trained on how to promote ordering books for next semester. It doesn’t hurt to initiate that thought process early.”
The strategy was more than effective too, according to general manager Scott McDonald.
"Because it was at the front of the store, most customers either used or asked about our new Price Comparison Kiosks. It was a great way to interact with our students and explain this new tool which contributes to our mission of promoting student success," he said. "We weren't always the cheapest, but when you looked at shipping charges, ability to have your books now, return-ability and the customer service provided at the local store level, most of the time it was a more prudent choice."
This wasn’t the first time the store had utilized the kiosks, however. They previously setup the same stations during the summer, when many incoming students were on campus for orientation.
“We took advantage of that additional traffic as a way to educate students on the cost-saving programs we offer, and price comparison is one of them,” Wohlfeil said. “It’s so helpful to get them to just sit down and look at price comparison right there in the store. Once they do, they are usually surprised to learn that we’re not as expensive as they thought. If you can get them to take a look, the benefits are wonderful.”
As for the future, VandalStore plans to continue moving their stations throughout the store, depending on the time of the year.
“As with anything, you have to keep it new and fresh,” she explained. “We plan to have the kiosks in the back of the store, near our textbook department, for rush this term. It’s created great visibility for the program and we’re very pleased with the results so far.”
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