ICBA and CAMEX 2020 Highlights

Our sales, marketing and customer success team members returned from the campus store industry’s biggest trade shows last week with insights on industry trends, themes and challenges.

Here are a few of their takeaways:

On retail experiences…

  • Most buzzworthy phrases heard: experience economy, experiential retail, customer engagement
  • We’re in an experience economy. Customers are looking for experiences over products and services, and they’re more knowledgeable and have higher expectations for customer service. This requires shifting your mindset to a shopping experience from a buying experience. Consider experiences-per-square-foot as a key performance indicator, not just sales per-square-foot.
  • Customers want a human touch and crave personal attention. Americans appreciate shopping locally, so make the environment feel comfortable and personal.
  • Customer service is one of a store’s main differentiators. Brick and mortar stores aren’t dead, but it’s important to understand customers’ voices and wow them through service.
  • Read more on this topic: 81 percent of Gen Z’ers prefer to shop in-store and 73 percent enjoy discovering new products in stores by browsing racks and shelves.

On changes in course materials…

  • Most buzzworthy phrases heard: inclusive access, digital delivery, declining course materials revenue
  • With the decline in course materials revenue, collegiate retailers are looking for ways to optimize their floor space more effectively using product placement and merchandising.
  • Stores are shifting their attention to bottom-line profitability as their top line decreases due to a decline in course materials sales. Similarly, they’re focusing on selling higher-margin general merchandise to offset the lower-margin digital and inclusive access materials.
  • Stores are also focused on how to remain at the center of procuring course materials as courses move to inclusive access and other digital options.
  • Managing and scaling inclusive access remains challenging for stores with limited resources, as does balancing their quantity to provide for traditional textbook sales where digital and physical options are available.
  • Another challenge stores are facing is the difficulty in managing publisher-only rentals due to reporting requirements and high rental-not-returned fees.
  • Store right-sizing will continue to trend as the industry aligns with new course material delivery options, including digital and inclusive access materials.
  • Campuses are exploring equitable access and one-fee models.
  • Everyone will be closely monitoring the launch of UC Davis’s equitable access program, which could help determine a new direction for course material delivery.

On technology and eCommerce…