The true reach of college bookstores on campuses today is often vastly overlooked. After prospective students and their families visit the admissions office, their second stop is usually the campus bookstore, where they can get a real feel for the university and its culture.
According to Charles Schmidt, director of public relations for the National Association of College Stores (NACS) in an article in University Business magazine, the campus bookstore is “the window to a university.” The bookstore serves as a connection between the school with current students, faculty, alumni, family, friends and fans of the university. As a result, the scope and reach of the campus bookstore extends beyond that of many institutions on campus. Barnes & Noble College bookstores offer textbooks, school supplies, apparel, and other products, as well as experiences, knowledge, and interaction.
Barnes & Noble College recognizes the importance that students place on fingertip access, and in keeping with today’s trends, focuses on how to market to millennials effectively and on their terms. The future of college store marketing lies with social media connections and the internet.
Capturing the attention of college students and connecting on campus requires a multi-faceted marketing campaign and approach. “They’re trendsetters, early adopters, and they’re building their brand loyalty and affinities now,” says Consumer & New Media Marketing Manager for Barnes & Noble College Tamara Vostok. “But capturing their loyalty can be a challenge. To build this type of marketing strategy you need to understand their wants, needs and behaviors. By staying connected to our students, we can offer the products and services that they really want and need.”
Email marketing is also a basic and inexpensive marketing method. Through the highly successful “Igniting the Freshmen Connection” customized communication program, campus bookstores immediately connect with incoming students through email and social media to offer specific promotions and information that link them with their new school – well before they arrive on campus.
With a certain value placed on online access and internet purchasing today, it is also important to note the services offered by brick-and-mortar stores. The sensory experience of thumbing through the pages of a textbook is a feature not available online, nor is the immediacy offered by purchasing an item in a store – like picking up a quick snack or grabbing a last-minute scantron on the way to class. The campus bookstore is also able to provide guidance for students and faculty through face-to-face interaction with knowledgeable and helpful staff – something online vendors cannot offer.
A seamless connection between the bookstore and the university creates a partnership that enhances the overall student and faculty experience while fostering the school’s academic mission. “This is a challenging environment for every college and the more you can entrust other aspects of your operation to reliable partners, the more time and effort and energy and resources you have to concentrate on what makes or breaks an institution,” says John Sweeney, Senior V.P. & Chief Financial Officer for Providence College. “Barnes & Noble College gets us – they understand us, and they understand our students. To be partnered with them, I think we are going to be able to tackle what’s ahead in a way that is best for our students.”