While it’s true that this remote lifestyle is perhaps losing a bit of its novelty and people are eager to speak to one another face-to-face again, nobody is going to want to go back to “normal” where things are less convenient than they have been during the pandemic. In other words, now that people have seen how easy it is to do everything online, they’re going to need it to be just as easy to do things in person again.
For universities, that includes everything from course selection to classwork, and it certainly applies to the way students purchase the books they need for their classes. Before the pandemic, nearly half of college students bought their books at on-campus bookstores. But online shopping means no lines, no problems finding the books you’re looking for, and no waiting around while someone from the staff digs around the backroom to see if they have another copy of something in stock. In order to return to pre-pandemic levels of in-person traffic, you have to provide that same level of elevated customer experience at your brick-and-mortar store. But how?
You can start by using a line management tool like QLess to cut down on wait times and increase overall customer throughput. Nobody likes standing in line, especially not after spending a year where lines were practically nonexistent. By scheduling appointments, automatically sending reminders, and even using phone notifications to enable virtual queues where your spot in line is reserved regardless of where you are physically, QLess helps make the on-campus bookstore experience feel as comfortable as the online one.
Of course, that’s just a start. You’ll probably want to consider things like in-store-only sales or some type of special event in order to help people get off their couches and into your bookstore. Consider offering concierge shopping to elevate the customers’ experience, where students can send you a list of classes and the textbooks they need, and your staff can put together an order ready for them to pick up. You may even want to advertise how quick and easy your in-store experience is — shopping online is great, but if students have questions about texts it can certainly be easier for them to ask your staff in person.
It’s going to be a long road before we’re fully “back to normal,” but that means there’s also plenty of opportunity for universities — and their on-campus bookstores — to set themselves up for success. The key is to focus on the positive factors introduced by the grand experiment in working and living remotely and to find ways to replicate them in our daily lives. Eliminating in-store lines and making it more convenient to buy college textbooks in person are just a few ways to elevate the customers’ overall experience.