Barnes & Noble College

How Barnes & Noble College tailors its customer experience to young, digital-savvy buyers

7.5% increase in customer satisfaction

69% of students said the events made their transition to college easier

Students 2x more likely to return to bookstore


Barnes & Noble College booksellers serves over 6.5 million students and faculty members in 770 post-secondary schools across the U.S.

Fast Facts






Customer Experience

Insights professionals


Use case:

Customer experience

Marketing effectiveness

Business Outcome:

Improve customer satisfaction

Drive revenue growth

De-risk decisions

Business Challenge

The company wanted to involve students in the evolution of the company and improve the customer experience to suit digital natives.


College Student POV is an insight community of 10,000 students who provide ongoing feedback that impacts business objectives and new initiatives. The success of the community inspired the launch of Parent POV, an insight community of 5,000 parents.

Barnes & Noble College wanted to make a great first impression on freshmen students. Turning to College Student POV, the company asked them what could be improved. Feedback uncovered that students were often confused during the textbook buying period. As a solution, the company launched VIP Shopping Nights, which are fun, exclusive events where first-year students can work directly with staff to buy their textbooks. Students who attended were twice as likely to return to the bookstore and 69 percent said the events made their transition to college easier. VIP Shopping Nights boosted customer satisfaction by 7.5 percent.

The company’s in-house agency, Barnes & Noble College Marketing, monetizes community feedback by providing other brands with insight into what students want. 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 consumer groups with 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 Marie Policastro, Director of Brand Partnerships and Market Research. “We comfortably rest the future of our company’s research initiatives on this fact.”

“Research fuels Barnes & Noble College,” says Steve McSpiritt, the market research specialist at the company. “It gives us and our partners a strategic advantage in understanding the most important audience to us: college students.” Today, every product, message and business decision across the company is vetted in some way by community members. For example, insight helps campus partners such as colleges and universities to improve student recruitment and retention, and guides publishing partners during course material development.

7.5% increase in customer satisfaction

69% of students said the events made their transition to college easier

Students 2x more likely to return to bookstore

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, Barnes & Noble College

Learn how other companies are using Vision Critical's customer insights platform

The Cabot Creamery Cooperative is an American dairy agricultural cooperative, owned by 800 farm ...


Haggar Clothing Co. is an innovative and growing menswear brand with a 90-year history. Based in ...


Salomon is a France-based outdoor sportswear and sports equipment manufacturer. With its mission ...


Learn how you can tailor the customer experience for young buyers just like Barnes & Noble College