How Smart Parcel Lockers are Modernizing the University Bookstore Experience
University bookstores are no longer a seller of only textbooks and logoed merchandise. The campus shop now operates as an information hub for updated COVID policies, a recruitment tool for undecided university-bound students, and a location to safely buy school supplies and course materials. In fact, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, a higher percentage of new textbooks are being sold due to concerns around the potential for contamination of used textbooks.
COVID’s impact on student life
Campus safety quickly asserted itself as the number one priority across university campuses in 2020, shifting admission policies, changing athletics protocols, and, ultimately, leading to the institution of hybrid learning. New policies translated into residence hall closures, shuttered dining rooms, and a temporary ban on large gatherings, severely impacting the college experience. This was especially true during the fall semester of 2020 when students had to rapidly adjust to new safety guidelines and testing protocols.
Nearly halfway through 2021, and with vaccination campaign efforts in full effect, college leadership is preparing for a total 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 instruction. 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 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 ship purchases to students, staff, and faculty accurately. 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, shoppers are 4x more likely to make an unplanned, additional purchase when retrieving their online orders.
Leveraging smart lockers beyond the campus store & mailroom
Recent research by Parcel Pending by Quadient and Spaces4Learning revealed that almost 42% of college administrators have already invested in intelligent parcel lockers. Whereas most universities implement smart lockers on campus to assist in secure package delivery and retrieval, today, their application extends well beyond the mail center.
In essence, a smart locker system is a 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.
Delivery with a locker system 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 7 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 mailroom's key challenges last fall.
Parcel Pending by Quadient’s smart locker system integrates effortlessly with its own Web Tracking System (WTS) or other existing university asset tracking software. This provides complete visibility to where packages and 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 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.
Why Campus Hub is essential for university campuses
The Campus Hub distribution method is a simple concept – lockers act as an exchange point for various items and goods with a built-in asset tracking software. 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 Campus Hub, universities 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. Thus, a smart locker solution today really should offer the following 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.
- The ability to utilize lockers for pick-up and return of goods/assets.
- Mail distribution leveraging the same communication platform.
- The ability for other departments to tap into the system for their own needs while allowing the process to remain unchanged for students and staff.
- The ability for the system to talk to other on-campus software so different departments can easily plugin. This includes the library, bookstore, IT department, cafeteria/dining hall, and more.
COVID has upended college life, and 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 students and faculty members.
Parcel Pending by Quadient offers the solutions that can help you build a modern, intuitive campus experience. Let us take care of your deliveries so you can take care of your students, faculty, and staff. Contact us today to learn more.