CASE STUDY: Leveraging Student Research on Campus

August 19, 2011

College students are on top of the latest trends. From being experts in technology to knowing the snack du jour, students’ preferences shape the campus bookstore. Increasingly, bookstores need to be flexible and ready to adapt to their specific student market. For two schools in California, Riverside City College and Cal State L.A., a partnership with Barnes & Noble College has brought different products and services that are customized for each unique campus. The schools are an hour apart, but worlds away.

Different Schools – Different Needs

At Riverside, one of California’s leading community colleges, students are cost-sensitive and don’t live on campus, so immediate savings at the bookstore matter. By contrast, Cal State students reflect the L.A. market – trend-savvy and health-oriented. And because many of these students live on campus, they need a bookstore that will meet their convenience needs.

At both schools, Barnes & Noble needed to leverage its extensive research on student behaviors in order to meet the particular needs of two unique campuses. While digital options appeal to the convenience-focused Cal State students, the more cost-conscious Riverside students are drawn to the huge savings the bookstore offers: saving more than 60 percent by purchasing eTextbooks and more than 50 percent by renting.

“Students are comfortable with electronic information and respond to immediate savings,” said Norm Godin, vice president of business services at Riverside City College. “The bookstore needs to provide these options to be competitive.”

Customizing the Bookstore to Meet Student Needs

Barnes & Noble also considered each school’s campus environment. At Riverside, the bookstore has extended hours for students looking for a snack after most other facilities have closed. The bookstore also serves food items that compliment existing campus dining options, rather than those that overlap and compete.

Cal State’s campus had very different needs. With many students residing on campus, full-service convenience was required. Now, fresh sandwiches, coffee, and more are served to accommodate students between classes. As a diverse campus in the L.A. market, Cal State’s food choices have been customized with vegan, vegetarian, and Asian options.

“We work with Barnes & Noble because they know how to select the right merchandise and product mix for our students,” said Jose Gomez, associate vice president for administration and finance at Cal State. “They have long track record in the business, and we value that expertise.”

With the help of Barnes & Noble’s student insight, the bookstores at Riverside and Cal State have seen enormous success. Riverside’s textbook rental program, for instance, is now one of the most successful rental programs in the country. Where Cal State has seen the biggest improvement is in its convenience and food service offerings, thanks to its more customized options.

“Every campus has its own unique student needs, and opportunities lie in meeting those needs,” said Denise Nakakihara, regional manager of Barnes & Noble College. “At Riverside and Cal State, we have tailored products and services to accommodate their individual student base and campus. When you give students what they’re looking for, a bookstore becomes a true destination.”

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