“Having an ongoing and open dialogue with our community members is critical. They trust us and we trust them. The insight we gather is much more powerful than we’d get from ad-hoc surveys because of this ongoing relationship.”

—Marie Policastro
Director of Brand Partnerships and Market Research

Rethinking customer experience for a challenging demographic

Barnes & Noble College serves over five million students and faculty members in more than 700 post-secondary schools across the U.S. The company needed to improve the customer experience to suit the needs of Millennial and Generation Z buyers, who are more likely to buy online and are attracted to brands that demonstrate authenticity, trust and individuality. To better understand customers, the company launched College Student POV, an insight community of 10,000. The community is invaluable to achieving Barnes & Noble College’s business objectives, inspiring a number of pilot programs and new initiatives.

Harnessing customer insight to improve products

The company saw an opportunity to sell athletic apparel on campuses. The consumer marketing team worked with the insight community to answer critical questions about students’ expectations for online shopping and the potential to support their passion for athletics. They discovered students actually preferred to buy their athletic apparel through campus bookstores like those operated by Barnes & Noble College. Moreover, students were eager to shop online through a dedicated eCommerce site from the bookstore. At the end of 2015, the company launched its first sports line at Florida International University. The community’s feedback ensured shopper needs are being met and the website is performing to its greatest potential.

How Barnes & Noble College benefits from our software

Involves customers in the development of new services

Improves customer experience with timely student feedback

Adapts to customers’ preference to share and shop online

Makes rapid decisions with confidence

Building deeper customer loyalty

Barnes & Noble College finds that students who joined the insight community enjoy the experience. “The activities are short and fun. I like the topics they cover and I can even participate on my way to class from my phone” said a sophomore community member from New York’s Binghamton University. The team has recently taken the insight community on the road, meeting members in-person on campuses. The company, using the insight community mobile app, also conducts in-the-moment research on customer experiences in the bookstore. This allows customers to provide feedback that can be immediately addressed by store managers and head office. Overall, the insight community helps the company make its bookstores more relevant to college campuses.

Monetizing insight community feedback

The company’s in-house agency, Barnes & Noble College Marketing, has been able to monetize the insight it gathers from the community, providing a window into the campus world to other brands. For those brands, BNCM combines dynamic, experiential marketing and research for pre-campaign strategy or post-campaign analyses. The insight community allows a brand to target types of consumers with surgical precision. Brand partners can be confident in the quality of Barnes & Noble College’s data. “Unlike some other players in the space, we know who these students are before we even begin recruiting,” says Policastro. “We comfortably rest the future of our company’s research initiatives on this fact.”

Learn how you can predict customer preferences with real-time insight just like Barnes & Noble College