Leveraging Student Insight on Different Campuses
Customized Offerings Meet Needs of Cal State L.A. and Riverside City College
College students are on top of the latest trends. From being early adopters of technology to knowing the snack du jour, student preferences shape the campus bookstore. Increasingly, these bookstores need to be agile 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 very different products and services to their students. The schools are an hour apart but worlds away.
At Riverside, one of California’s leading community colleges, students live off-campus and place high value on cost-savings. Cal State, alternatively, does have students living on-campus who require a bookstore that will satisfy their need for convenience, as well as health-oriented choices.
At both schools, Barnes & Noble needed to leverage its extensive research on student behaviors — for two very different groups of students — in order to meet the unique needs of these two campuses.
Whether for cost-savings or convenience, providing digital and rental textbook options has been crucial at both campuses. While digital options appeal especially to the convenience-focused Cal State students, the more cost-conscious Riverside students are drawn to the steep savings they offer: students save 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. “Providing students a breadth of options brings students back to their campus bookstore.”
Barnes & Noble also considered each school’s campus environment. At Riverside, the bookstore’s hours were extended later than other campus dining facilities for those students looking for a snack after the facilities close. The bookstore also serves food items that complement existing campus dining options, rather than those that overlap and compete.
Cal State’s campus, on the other hand, had very different needs. With many students residing on campus, Cal State had a greater need for convenience items and services. Now, fresh sandwiches, coffee and more are served to accommodate students between classes. Additionally, Barnes & Noble expanded Cal State’s food choices with vegan, vegetarian and Asian options to meet the needs of this diverse campus community.
“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 a 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 the most successful rental program in the country. Forty-five percent of students chose rentals when available—well above the 36 percent average in the region—saving students $617,000 during the 2010-2011 academic year. Cal State has seen the biggest improvement in its convenience and food service offerings thanks to its more customized options.
For both campuses, the bookstore certainly has become a hub for student activity. With seating available in an environment designed for their lifestyle, students now spend more time studying, eating and socializing at their campus bookstore than ever before.
“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.”