Elevating Campus Bookstores to New Levels of Success

Feb 15, 2022 | General Business

Whether they are owned and operated by a university, housed in leased space off campus, managed as cooperatives or operating as nonprofits, campus bookstores serve a valuable purpose in the collegiate world. In the US alone, there are nearly 4,000 stores serving the collegiate retail market.

Where larger universities may have several different stores serving their students, small colleges may only have one on campus. Or, a group of institutions located in close proximity may share multiple retail outlets. Whatever setup or management approach these establishments use, they collectively bring in more than $2 million in sales in the US every year.

Like many industries right now, the campus bookstore is going through some changes and experiencing new challenges and roadblocks. The ongoing transition to digital textbooks, for example, means bookstores are stocking and selling fewer physical books. The global pandemic accelerated this trend by making virtual learning the “norm” as schools closed and students learned from home.

A Shifting Business Model

Until recently, college students usually had just one option when buying textbooks: the campus bookstore. “Large universities [might have] had one or two competing stores in their town,” NetSuite’s Ian McCue writes, “but just about every student relied on the school store for course materials.”

McCue says that a captive audience and minimal competition put campus bookstores in a great position to succeed over the past 100-plus years. However, online competition and the climbing expectations of consumers have changed that business model and forced campus stores to match the same omnichannel experiences competitors provide.

“A painless customer experience is crucial because much of college retailers’ customer base is young undergraduates who grew up with great online shopping experiences and fast delivery,” he adds. “Its shoppers came of age with Amazon and mobile shopping. They don’t distinguish between online, in-store and mobile channels and expect to move between them freely.”

New Competition Emerges

The fact that more students are shopping for used books online through outlets like Amazon is also forcing college bookstores to find ways to work smarter, better and more efficiently. For help, many of them are turning to technology like cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms.

In How Campus Bookstores Can Make a Profit, PODS discusses some of the top ways that these establishments can continue growing and serving their customer bases in the most profitable manner possible. As one of its tips, PODS suggests campus stores keep more inventory on hand.

“If books or other items are out-of-stock, students must go elsewhere to purchase them — resulting in lost sales,” it says. “When that happens, students might not return to the store next semester since they may have already graduated or changed institutions.”

Of course, managing additional inventory requires a robust technology platform that helps organizations strike the right balance between having enough books on hand to meet demand but not enough to create an overstock situation—or worse yet, stick stores with unsaleable inventory.

Key Benefits of NetSuite for Campus Stores

As a leading cloud-based ERP, NetSuite not only manages all of a campus bookstore’s business management needs, but it also comes pre-loaded with ecommerce solutions (SuiteCommerce), point of sale (POS) options and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. It’s a perfect choice for any retailer that wants to facilitate its customers’ journey and streamline interactions—whether they happen in-store, on a laptop or via a mobile device.

The key benefits that NetSuite offers campus stores include:

1. Real-time visibility

Stores can make data-driven decisions by leveraging a real-time view of the business with role-based reports, dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs).

2. Elimination of manual processes

NetSuite helps eradicate the need for multiple point solutions with a unified data model, enabling one instance of record for financials, inventory, orders and customers.

3. No more disparate applications or siloed systems

NetSuite unifies every aspect of a campus bookstore’s multi-channel, multi-location operations—from ecommerce to POS to textbook management. It also manages marketing, merchandising, inventory, order management, financials and support on a single platform.

4. Robust inventory management

Organizations can eliminate inventory silos between channels and achieve the right product assortment. This helps stores avoid stock-outs, free up cash flow and meet their customers’ needs.

5. Reliable textbook management

NetSuite offers best-in-class course materials management, including adoptions, buybacks, rentals, campus cards and chargebacks.

When bookstores work with ERP Success Partners to implement NetSuite, they can also accelerate the order-to-cash process, improve their financial reporting and streamline their supply chains. By replacing their disparate systems and spreadsheets with a leading cloud ERP, campus bookstores can more effectively address the challenges that they’re facing right now and start planning ahead for more growth and success.


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