February 13, 2013

After Launch of Price Comparison Tool, Cornell Store Sees Sales Increase

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The Cornell Store reported an increase in book sales in 2012 after it launched a textbook price comparison tool that allows students to compare book prices at by the Cornell Store and other online vendors.

The tool, which was released in January 2012, has been used to place more than 1,600 orders, according to Margie Whiteleather, the Cornell Store’s strategic projects manager.

The price comparison tool, which automatically displays prices from multiple websites side-by-side, allows students to compare book prices offered by the Cornell Store, Amazon.com and  Half.com, a Cornell affiliate vendor and e-book company, according to Whiteleather.

“It is integrated into online shopping carts, so you don’t have to go to separate sites. It automatically sets up shopping carts for the merchants you select,” she said.

After the launch of the project, which aimed to increase textbook sales, 80 percent of the tool’s users purchased books from the Cornell Store.

“We’ve known for quite a while that students are shopping online for textbooks,” she said. “With price comparison, 80 percent of people buy from the Cornell Store.”

In addition to the price comparison tool, the Cornell Store is also offering more rental options to increase book sales.

Whiteleather said the increase in  textbook sales at The Cornell Store represents the Cornell Store’s first increase “in several years.”

Additionally, fewer individuals return books purchased from the Cornell Store after receiving them from third-party vendors, according to Whiteleather.

“Students would buy a book from the store and then return it once the book [ordered] online came, so we would run out of books,” she said.

The site simplifies price comparison by integrating booklists with the online price tools, according to Whiteleather.

“Instead of entering [International Standard Book Numbers] into lots of individual websites, the price comparison is integrated into your personal booklist,” she said.

Whiteleather said that students also have the option of choosing in store pick up when ordering online.

“Our goal is to make textbook shopping easy for students,” she said. “We were thrilled to have a solution.”

The price comparision tool has garnered positive feedback, according to Whiteleather. The Cornell Store recently advertised the tool through an email sent to students at the beginning of the semester, and is  working on other ways to promote the tool.

“We are definitely going to continue these strategies,” she said. “There may be slight enhancements. One surprising thing is that there are still students that aren’t aware of it.”

Although students said they found the tool useful, some said that some of the data presented by the tool was inaccurate.

“They didn’t reflect the right prices. I always check online and it isn’t right. I’m a good researcher,” Camil Pulido ’15 said.

Another student, Meghan McCormick ’16, who usually buys books from Amazon.com, expressed dissatisfaction with the tool.

“I looked at it and it was not 100- percent accurate.” she said.

Ali Yazdi ’13 said he often used the price tool.

“I use it, it’s pretty helpful,” he said. “It is decently convenient.”

Yazdi said there is a reason why prices displayed on the tool were different from actual store prices.

“Sometimes it may not be accurate, but it uses the prices from the reputable Amazon dealers rather than just whatever you find online,” he said. “I am willing to pay that surcharge for the convenience and security.”

Original Author: Erica Augenstein