If you remember your college bookstore as simply a seller of textbooks and logoed merchandise, it’s time to modernize your views on the college bookstore experience.
The campus shop now operates as an information portal for updated COVID policies, a recruitment tool for undecided college-bound seniors, and a hub for safely buying school supplies and course materials like an e-book or textbook. In fact, since the outbreak of the pandemic in March of 2020, a higher percentage of new textbooks are being sold due to concerns around the potential contamination of used textbooks1.
COVID’s Impact on Student Life: It Changed Everything!
Campus safety quickly asserted itself as the number one priority across college campuses last year, shifting admission policies, changing athletics protocols, and, ultimately, leading to the institution of hybrid learning. Adjusted policies translated into residence hall closures, shuttered dining rooms, and a temporary ban on large gatherings, severely impacting the college experience as many current students know it – especially during the fall semester in 2020 when students had to rapidly adjust to new safety guidelines and testing protocols. According to the CDC, as a consequence of this disruption to student life, nearly 60% of college students surveyed said they were worried about their mental health2.
Nearly halfway through 2021, and with vaccination campaign efforts in full effect, college leadership is preparing for a full return to campus. Leaders are challenging the assumption that more amenities lead to a better college experience. As McKinsey & Company highlights, spending on student services has grown four times faster than that allocated for instruction3. However, investing in fewer, better services that boost students’ well-being and engagement might be a more logical choice during these unusual times, especially considering current student consumer trends.
Streamlining Bookstore Operations Using Lockers
Given the importance of the bookstore in student life, smart lockers allow for safe, contactless purchasing and returns. A college student can easily pick up an online order (such as a textbook, course materials, clothing, or other school apparel) on their schedule, avoiding a crowded campus shop and simultaneously practicing social distancing.
Using smart locker solutions for BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store), offer four key benefits to the college bookstore:
- Improved Student Experience – When order pick-up takes as little as 7 seconds, it’s no wonder that 95% of customers who use lockers for order pick-up are more likely to become recurring shoppers throughout the semester.
- Lower Operational Costs – Employing smart locker solutions can save staff an average of 45 hours per month managing online orders.
- Easy, Secure Access to Orders – With the ever-changing guidance around in-person learning and on-campus housing, it can be difficult to accurately ship purchases to students, staff, and faculty. Lockers allow bookstore customers to retrieve an item (or items) at their convenience, even outside store hours, at a secure on-campus location.
- Additional Revenue – Whether picking up from a locker or customer service desk, students are back in the bookstore with the opportunity to purchase again. In fact, 61% of shoppers make an unplanned, additional purchase when retrieving their online orders4.
Leveraging Smart Lockers Beyond the Campus Store & Mailroom
Recent research conducted by Parcel Pending by Quadient and Spaces4Learning revealed that although almost 42% of college administrators have already invested in smart parcel lockers, a greater number (45%) would be interested in implementing this campus amenity space5.
Whereas most universities implement smart lockers on campus to assist in secure package delivery and retrieval, today, they’re being deployed in ways beyond the mail. In essence, a smart locker system is simply another contactless delivery and pick-up point that can improve facilities in college campus buildings. It can also be leveraged for campus-wide distribution of documents, laptops, library books, move-in materials, online store purchases, and more. With students, faculty, and staff no longer on campus regularly, smart lockers act as a safe and secure delivery hub for the whole campus community.
The way delivery with a locker system works is simple: parcels are sorted, coded, and delivered to a secure electronic locker. Recipients are then notified by email or text that a package has been delivered to the smart locker. Students, staff, and faculty can then open the locker and be on their way with their delivery in as little as 10 seconds.
The Need for Secure Tracking of Packages
Also highlighted in the joint research between Parcel Pending by Quadient and Spaces4Learning was the need for accurate package tracking. As shown below, 23% of higher education respondents noted it as one of the key challenges facing the mailroom last fall.
Parcel Pending’s by Quadient’s smart locker system integrates effortlessly with its own Web Tracking System (WTS) or other existing university asset tracking software, providing complete visibility to where packages or other deliveries are at all times without requiring students and staff to register for another service.
This means universities do not need to create a new communication process for students, staff, and faculty who wish to use the lockers. Instead, there is one simple delivery process for all deliveries, regardless of department. That also means that the mail center, library, campus store, or campus IT, can each use the software to access chain-of-custody for any deliveries made using the lockers.
Smart Lockers to Help Financial Challenges on Campus
COVID’s hit to the colleges’ bottom line is significant. A report from the NAFSA: Association of International Educators estimates that institutions will lose at least $3 billion due to international student enrollment declines in fall 2020, plus the NCAA announced that Division I schools may lose to $375 million due to cancellations of various athletics tournaments6,7. That means any improvements that could save time and money while providing a premium student life experience are under consideration.
Recent research suggests that switching to intelligent university lockers can boost staff productivity by a whopping 30%! Pair that with Parcel Pending by Quadient’s flexible technology and implementing lockers becomes quick, easy, and cost-effective for universities, as funds can be pooled from various departments to reduce overall investment cost.
Smart Lockers: Managing Deliveries for More Than Just the Campus Store
The Campus Hub distribution method is a simple concept – lockers as an exchange point for various items and goods with a built-in asset tracking software that ensures the system can keep getting smart. This helps to solve two major pain points plaguing higher education right now: the ability to do more with less staff, labor, and resources and the need to create a revenue-generating module.
With the Campus Hub, colleges aren’t simply purchasing a product. Rather, they are building a platform for distributing goods and items via a self-service, smart locker system that leverages existing processes and provides a comprehensive chain of custody. In essence, a smart locker solution today really should offer the following in order to remain relevant tomorrow:
- Chain-of-custody in one system for packages that do not go in a locker – including large items, medicine, high-value items, food, and more
- Ability to utilize lockers for pick-up and return of goods/assets
- Mail distribution leveraging the same communication platform
- Ability for other departments to tap into the system for their own needs while allowing the process to remain unchanged for students and staff
- Ability for the system to talk to other software already on-campus, so other departments can easily plug in: including the library, bookstore, IT department, cafeteria/dining hall, and more
COVID has clearly upended college student life. With most campuses using a hybrid learning model, it’s critical to adopt practices that boost campus community safety, efficiency, and productivity while lowering costs. Smart lockers offer a fantastic opportunity to meet these needs for both current students and faculty members.
Parcel Pending by Quadient is offering a number of flexible commitment terms that can help you bridge budget gaps attributed to COVID-related disruptions in campus operations.
Let us take care of your deliveries so you can take care of your students, faculty, and staff. Learn more about our university parcel management solutions here.
- CampusBooks.com. (2020, July 30). COVID-19 Severely Impacts Back To School Textbook Industry Reports CampusBooks.com [Press release]. Retrieved from: https://www.prnewswire.com/news/campusbooks.com/
- Dennon, Anne. BestColleges. The Altered Reality of College Life During COVID-19. (2020, November 6). https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/covid-19-altered-reality-college/.
- Dua, André, et al. McKinsey & Company. Reimagining higher education in the United States. (2020, October 26). https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/reimagining-higher-education-in-the-united-states.
- Parcel Pending. Omnichannel Retail Strategy: Bringing Online Shoppers to Brick & Mortar Stores. (2020, June 1). https://parcelpending.wpengine.com/blog/omnichannel-retail-strategy-bringing-online-shoppers-to-brick-mortar-stores/.
- Spaces4Learning & Parcel Pending by Quadient. (2020, December). Campus Operations During the Pandemic [White paper]. Retrieved from: https://spaces4learning.com/Whitepapers/2020/12/Campus-Operations-During-the-Pandemic.aspx
- NAFSA: Association of International Educators. (2020, May). NAFSA Financial Impact Survey [Report]. Retrieved from: https://www.nafsa.org/policy-and-advocacy/policy-resources/nafsa-2020-financial-impact-survey
- NCAA. (2020, March 26). NCAA presidents set revised financial distribution to support college athletes [Press release]. Retrieved from: https://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news