The University of Oregon men’s basketball team may have lost in the NCAA Final Four this past weekend to the University of North Carolina, but its bookstore still won when it came to online sales.
The University of Oregon’s 24,000 students and worldwide network of alumni showed their enthusiasm for the school’s basketball teams’ March Madness runs—the women’s team made it to the Elite Eight—with web visits and purchases, says Alex Lyons, strategic technology team leader for the university’s official bookstore, The Duck Store.
Online sales increased 81% and order volume rose 350% for The Duck Store during March 25-31 as compared to the same period last year. Web sessions increased 64% and unique visitors increased 63%, Lyons says. Additionally, time spent on the university bookstore e-commerce site increased about 14%, page views rose 127%, shoppers visited 39% more pages per visit and the store experienced a 7.5% decrease in bounce rate, Lyons says.
“When we won on Saturday (March 25 against the University of Kansas) there was a burst of excitement with fans,” Lyons says. Nike Inc., based in Portland, Ore., also released special “Cut the net” T-shirts for teams advancing to the Final Four, and those were hot sellers, Lyons adds.
“Basketball for us hasn’t had the same following as football, even when we’ve gotten into the Elite Eight,” Lyons says. “It was great to see fans’ excitement and the immediate response in traffic and sales. It’s something we’ve seen with football but not with basketball before.
The Duck Store, which generates about $34 million in total annual sales between the web and its 10 bricks-and-mortar locations on and around the campus in Eugene, including at the football stadium and basketball arena and in the campus town, began selling online in the mid-1990s.
As web sales began to grow, The Duck Store moved to e-commerce platform provider Volusion LLC in 2010. And, as web sales continued to swell at a steady clip, now totaling $1.2 million to $2.2 million for merchandise—often depending on the success of the football team—and another $1.5 million for textbook sales, The Duck Store in 2014 decided to consider a retail system that could combine its enterprise resource planning (ERP), e-commerce, in-store point-of-sale and email marketing in one spot. In July, the retailer migrated to Oracle’s NetSuite SuiteCommerce Advanced retail platform to house all those systems under one roof.
It was great to see fans’ excitement and the immediate response in traffic and sales.
Before moving to SuiteCommerce Advanced, The Duck Store hobbled between its legacy back-end system, a common system used by university bookstores nationwide called MBS Textbook Exchange Inc. that housed its ERP, point-of-sale and textbook e-commerce systems, and its Volusion platform for online sales. Staff spent ample time each day entering data from that older system into Volusion and creating workarounds for the two platforms to integrate, albeit clumsily, Lyons says.
“We were limited with what we could do because of all the manual steps required to take data from our legacy system and put it into Volusion,” Lyons says. For example, item management and accounting systems were still housed in MBS, and staff had to extract that data from MBS and import it into Volusion twice a day. “Our staff was spending a ton of time reconciling sales info and updating inventory numbers for our some 25,000 unique items,” Lyons says.
Across accounting, fulfillment, operations and web development, bookstore employees were spending as many as seven hours per day moving data between the two systems and troubleshooting errors. “The modern and legacy systems didn’t play well together,” Lyons says. “I realized we needed an enterprise-level platform and we were going to have to be fully integrated.”
Moving everything to SuiteCommerce Advanced especially helped during the March Madness sales rush as The Duck Store could immediately view store sales, purchase orders and web sales in one system. For example, when web sales surged in late March, it was able to pull inventory from its smaller satellite stores and allocate it to its online store. “There was a huge risk of overselling with our old system,” Lyons says. “We had to build very manual bridges from the web store (on Volusion) to all the other systems (on MBS). With NetSuite we could quickly make the decision to offer inventory online, where there was more immediate demand.
Additionally, all store team members have access to the same data and the same information, Lyons says. This is especially helpful when keeping track of inventory and pricing for food and beverage items, which are complex and have moving expiration dates, high turnover and numerous SKUs, Lyons says.
Lyons also likes that the software integrates with other services. For example, the store uses Bronto, which is owned by Oracle, for email marketing and will soon be integrating with Pubnet, a textbook publishing e-commerce exchange owned by The Nielsen Co. Oracle NetSuite charges The Duck Store an annual software license fee for SuiteCommerce Advanced in addition to a fee for 120 users to access the software. It also pays an annual POS system license fee and a fee for unlimited POS access for cashiers.
The Duck Store is part of a new campus bookstore industry focus unveiled recently by Oracle NetSuite. The NetSuite Campus Store Suite, software built for independent college bookstores, aims to help university bookstores make the transition from bricks and mortar to combining web and stores. “It combines point of sale, textbook management, e-commerce, CRM and inventory management with the financial system that university bookstores need as a new generation of customers comes in their doors expecting their buying process to be a seamless experience across multiple channels,” Oracle NetSuite says.
For the next big sales surge after a major football or basketball team victory, Lyons hopes to offer more presales of items based on the number of units it knows will soon arrive at its warehouse.
“Next time we hope take into consideration how much of a product we ordered and open that product up for purchasing to our customers earlier in order to meet consumer demand more fully,” Lyons says. “We’ve learned a lot from this experience and hope to be able to quickly apply it to the next opportunity.”
Oracle/NetSuite is the top e-commerce platform provider to Internet Retailer Top 1000 retailers as ranked by the web sales of its 108 e-commerce platform clients in the Top 1000, according to the Internet Retailer Leading Vendors to the Top 1000. Oracle/NetSuite also has 74 customer service software clients in the Top 1000, 44 content management clients and 81 order management clients.