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City College of San Francisco bookstore streamlines textbook rentals via iPod touch devices

The City College of San Francisco is making it easier for students to rent textbooks and course materials from an on-campus bookstore with mobile point-of-sale devices that eliminate the need to stand in long lines.

Seattle University, Western Washington and City College of San Francisco are among the other higher educational institutions using RapidCheckout for Mobile from Rafter. The mobile POS system leverages iPod touches to help university bookstores address long checkout lines on the busiest days and cut down on frustrated students who may end up purchasing elsewhere as a result.

“For college stores at schools large and small, the beginning of semester rush for books is always an onslaught of students needing to get required course materials,” said Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of Rafter, San Mateo, CA.

“Mobile check-out allows them to manage the rush of students and present them with a state of the art checkout experience like that that would get at an Apple store,” he said. “It also allows the college store to free up space to dedicate it to other high-performing merchandise.

“With a mobile checkout system in their bookstore, schools can process transactions from mobile devices anywhere in the store, easing the stresses of long lines, making checkouts faster and ultimately keeps students coming back to the bookstore.”

Mobile transactions
Many college bookstores have introduced in-store rentals as a way to regain business from students who are renting books online.

Rafter’s RapidCheckout for Mobile is a mobile cash register that lets campus store staff rent textbooks anywhere Wi-Fi is available on campus. The solution enables store associates to scan a book, select the rental period, enter student information and then swipe a card to pay.

Thirty eight percent of all rental transactions at City College of San Francisco’s bookstore from Aug. 1-Sept. 18 were through mobile, accounting for 38 percent of all sales.

“We’ve seen similar numbers among our other customers,” Mr. Maghsoodnia said.”At 12 schools using Rafter’s RapidCheckout, 27 percent of in-store transactions were conducted via RapidCheckout.”

Better customer experiences
Colleges and universities have been pushing into mobile at a fast pace, which make sense since college-age consumers are typically early adopters of mobile technology.

For example, this spring Mount Holyoke College began piloting a mobile payments app enabling students to pay for purchases around campus (see story).

Additionally, Shippensburg University is testing NFC in its school cafeterias (see story).

Colleges and universities are also a focus for brands and marketers trying to reach students via mobile marketing. For example, General Motors and The New York Times were among the initial advertisers on a new mobile network enabling brands to reach college students via their mobile devices when they are close to a campus bookstore (see story).

“It really comes down to making the customer experience faster and easier,” Mr. Maghsoodnia  said. “Students are busy and they don’t have time to wait in lines.

“When they rent their textbooks, they can skip the long lines and just find a roving clerk to check them out,” he said.” They also prefer to get their receipts and confirmations in email.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York