Giving Them Choice
UIC Bookstore at University of Illinois, Chicago
Sara Didio, University of Illinois, Chicago’s tenacious Assistant Director of Retail Operations, knew that her students liked having choices. She saw it play out on the bookstore floor time and time again. She consequently assumed that if they liked having options to buy different types of merchandise, perhaps they would embrace transparent pricing for textbooks.
Sara had heard about Verba Compare, but didn't have any first-hand experience with it. So, she decided to do some research. “I just reached out and started talking with other Verba users,” Didio explains. “And every single one of them told me, ‘you can’t afford not to do it.’”
“The first thing I heard was ‘I made my money back.’ Then I heard, ‘You know [the students are] going to go online and compare anyway,’ and it all made sense.”
Didio went full speed ahead to make price comparison the success she knew it would be.
For UIC, the first step toward transparency was getting her costs under control. Didio realized that competitiveness started with sourcing, so immediately began a determined online sourcing effort.
“With used books you have to be an eager beaver.”
“We changed our traditional workflow and began sourcing on a weekly basis”, reveals Didio. “Now, before we hit wholesalers, we hit the online marketplace. It’s very nice to have another alternative for used books than our traditional sources.”
UIC also reduced the cost of books using Verba’s Dynamic Buyback module.
“We were overpaying and Verba made it clear where we needed to make cuts.”
The first time UIC Textbook Manager Paul Czarnowski used the tool, he reduced his buyback pricing by 40%, putting the store in a far more competitive – and student-friendly – position come rush.
With adoptions in, books sourced, and competitive pricing set, it was time to start marketing UIC’s new comparison shopping feature. The bookstore team hit their UIC customer base on all fronts.
They featured price comparison on their facebook page, and put the comparison tool front and center on their bookstore website. They notified faculty about the new service and they made a lot of noise with first-time customers. “We went after freshman parents hard,” explains Czarnowski. “We went to every freshman orientation and did a show about the bookstore and price comparison in particular.”
Then they waited. “I was petrified when we turned it on”, Didio confides. Fortunately, her fears proved all for naught: in Fall 2014, UIC’s web sales were up a staggering 21%, while web-based transactions increased by 39% overall. Within Compare, they amassed an equally impressive 93% win rate versus the online competition. As Didio simply states, smiling:
“It’s a good sell to have price comparison on your site.”
The textbook and retail team at UIC challenged themselves to learn new ways to do business. As a new year dawns and the Freshman class of 2015 walks through the halls, Didio continues to see the bookstore’s efforts pay off. She sees it not only in dollars to the store and school, but also in the good will and value brought to the bookstore.