For students who will be missing out on the dorm experience this fall, Bed Bath & Beyond has a solution.
Today, the retailer launched College From Home, a new service to help the many students who will be studying online this fall redesign their bedrooms to capture as much of the university experience as possible.
“One of the things we were hearing quite a bit, in particular from parents, is that they really didn’t want their daughter or son to miss out on having the college shopping experience,” said Cindy Davis, the home goods retailer’s CMO. Parents especially felt that way given that their children missed so much of their senior year in high school, she added.
The College From Home service provides design ideas and tips, as well as curated products tied to virtual learning. (The items are, of course, not only intended for distance learners but also students still be attending classes on campus or living in an apartment.)
The offering was launched through the home goods retailer’s online interior design platform Decorist, just as back-to-school shopping is getting underway.
The service primarily targets a Gen Z audience, Davis said, adding that for many, it may be their first time shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond.
“It’s not just what they need functionally, but how they can express themselves,” she said, giving the retailer a way to be part of the celebration of that special moment of starting college. “How they decorate their dorm room is really important to their identity,” she added.
The design services will complement existing measures to make the college shopping experience easier and more convenient this year, she noted, including the introduction of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) and contactless curbside pickup.
In addition, with so much uncertainty around what course of action colleges will take concerning Covid-19, Bed Bath & Beyond launched a savings program that gives customers 20% off on all their purchases until Sept. 30, giving back-to-school shoppers the option to spread out purchases.
In that vein, the retailer is tracking what the country’s top 100 colleges are doing this fall, and how their reopening plans are changing. Part of Bed Bath & Beyond’s aim is to constantly adapt to changing customer needs, Davis said.
“I think that staying close to the customer and being prepared to be nimble is going to be really important,” she noted.
While the focus is on college, the retailer knows those are not the only students shopping for new items. Studying from home is surging, with Bed Bath & Beyond seeing a more than 200% increase in search for desks and chairs during June and July.
While the retailer knew certain staples would still be in demand, there were some products it leaned into more, such as a mini Keurig that is a favorite of college students but also popular as more people work from home.
The retailer is encouraged by what it’s seeing so far during the back-to-school shopping season. “When we look back at it, it won’t look like any college season,” Davis said.
For Davis, who joined the retailer in May, it has also been something of a new experience. She noted that the College From Home service is the fruit of labor undertaken by the team at Bed Bath & Beyond prior to her arrival as chief marketer.
She was brought on board by CEO Mark Tritton, who himself only took charge of the company last November as it looked to remake itself amid declining sales. He previously served as chief merchandising officer at Target.