If you’ve noticed life as a consumer has changed over the past decade, the transformation can be traced to one word: convenience.
It’s why Amazon has one-click purchasing, Instagram is now shoppable, and retail stores have implemented easy cashier-less checkouts. Consumer expectations have transformed at a rapidly accelerating pace—and university bookstores and their customers are not exempt from this desire for convenience.
Even as shopping becomes more accessible from wherever, whenever, many brick-and-mortar college bookstores have struggled to keep up with the pace of change: it’s one of the reasons why bookstore sales are down by as much as 35%.
As universities continue to find ways to evolve with their students to ensure student success and retention, the model of an online bookstore managed through a partner is becoming a clear and convenient solution.
With 24/7 availability, expanded selection of inventory, lower costs, and convenient ordering and shipping, online bookstores are allowing universities to focus on meeting faculty and student needs when it comes to course materials and their effectiveness (learn more about the 5 benefits universities see after adopting an online bookstore).
Why Online Bookstores Offer Convenience for Faculty
Long before students ever think of ordering their textbooks for the start of the term, there are multiple steps needed to be accomplished by faculty and staff. For many, researching and adopting course materials has required a complicated mix of spreadsheets, multiple vendors, back-and-forth conversations, and a bevy of on and offline steps.
Working with a publisher or committee, the burden of course materials has fallen on individual faculty members or a central coordinator who may also negotiate contracts and ensure the campus bookstore orders and stocks their selections. On top of everything, faculty may have to follow up with students to ensure they’ve obtained course materials with no easy way to verify if students have what they require prior to the start of class .
In contrast, online bookstores give faculty an easy portal with direct access to millions of titles by different publishers, providing choice and a simplified adoption process. Completing their course material selection process in minutes, not days, faculty can then rely on the online bookstore to handle fulfillment so they never worry about course materials arriving at the bookstore. With extensive customer support provided by the online bookstore, students get the answers they need without having to consult their instructors.
For faculty who have taken an active role in ensuring students obtain their course materials, an online bookstore reveals which students have obtained their course materials, allowing faculty to send targeted reminder emails to those who have not yet ordered.
Unlike traditional bookstores, faculty have the convenience of creating customized coursepacks within the portal, allowing instructors to choose the chapters, papers, and research that appears in a digital or physical coursepack. Content selection becomes easier, the debate over what to assign ends, and faculty are freed up to focus on teaching.
Why Online Bookstores Offer Convenience for Students
It’s no surprise that Gen Z and Millennial students who make up the majority of university communities expect convenience; their phone is an always available source for just about anything they need. From summoning an Uber to ordering dim sum, students’ transportation, food, friends, and entertainment are a thumb click away.
However, the way students have traditionally obtained course materials offers little convenience. While shopping at the campus bookstore may seem easy, it may not be if the students haven’t moved onto campus yet, live off-campus or commute. Add to that, the already busy schedules of students and restricted hours of the store, and what ends up happening is that students wait until the last minute or even after classes have begun to focus on obtaining their textbooks and materials.
If a student shops outside the campus bookstore and buys from a non-university sanctioned online retailer like Amazon or Chegg, they do receive a 24/7 shopping experience—but that convenience diminishes when they need to find the right course materials. Ordering from online retailers forces students to double or triple check if they’re getting the proper edition or correct version of textbooks; and invariably, when mistakes happen, it results in lost time and money.
In contrast, a managed online bookstore that’s in partnership with the college is also open 24/7 to match any student schedule, with the added valuable benefit of being highly personalized to each individual student.
Online bookstores can integrate with the institution’s SIS and LMS, creating a seamless connection between registering for classes, viewing the required and optional course materials, and easily obtaining them. With eBooks or other digital materials, an online bookstore can also offer a central eLibrary to host all of the digital content in one centralized location. By keeping students to just one platform, the entire process is more convenient, more familiar, and more likely to end in the student getting the right course materials.
Online bookstores offer another bonus that leads students to purchase from their university. Through integrations with university financial aid platforms, it’s easy to choose course materials and pay for them with the funds in their financial aid account, something which is impossible to do with an online retailer.
Students who purchase through an online bookstore have another unique benefit. When ordering course materials, they can be offered a guaranteed buyback price, reimbursement they receive when they return their books at the end of the term. This easy process takes the hassle out of selling textbooks—both for students and for staff who don’t have to run a buyback program.
Why Online Bookstores Offer Convenience for University Administrators
While tackling the inconveniences of choosing and obtaining course materials may most obviously affect faculty and students, implementing an online bookstore ultimately creates convenience for administrators, too.
Campus bookstores have offered challenges. From sluggish sales to hiring and managing staff, administrators are also inconvenienced by fulfillment, licensing, distribution, and customer support, requiring hours of meetings and committees.
Through a managed online bookstore, the challenges of providing course materials are handled by the online bookstore provider. From negotiating with publishers to providing customer support, online bookstores are a lean and convenient way for administrators to delegate time-consuming tasks to a vendor partner.
Administrators finally gain convenient visibility over their course materials and adoption. Information becomes transparent and accessible through useful tools that show course material adoption and purchasing behavior, data that makes informed decisions possible.
Bringing Convenience to Course Materials
Fortunately, managed online bookstores are making life easier and more convenient for everyone at colleges and universities. Students gain an easier ordering process, faculty can easily research and adopt course materials, and administrators eliminate or reduce the challenges that come with self operating a retail store.
In addition, migrating to this model opens up new possibilities for the existing campus bookstore, whether it’s to evolve into more of a merchandise-focused retail operation or to transform into a student-centric facility.
If you want to bring convenience to your campus and make course material adoption easier, contact us to learn what an online bookstore can bring to your university.
Discover more about the 5 benefits universities see after adopting an online bookstore.