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EXCLUSIVE: Follett Higher Education begins opening frictionless stores

Emmanuel Kolady
Emmanuel Kolady, CEO, Follett Higher Education

Follett Higher Education is committed to creating a frictionless shopping experience at over 1,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada. 

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Emmanuel Kolady, CEO, Follett Higher Education, to discuss how the largest campus retailer in North Americais partnering with GK Software to create state-of-the-art, frictionless shopping experiences across of all its stores and pop-up shops. 

Leveraging GK Software technology, Follett plans to transform the company's POS infrastructure and enable new in-store customer touchpoints like self-checkout and bring your own device (BYOD) self-scanning.

What issues was Follett having with in-store checkout?

Follett Higher Education requires highly customized software to handle the unique needs of selling course materials, as well as school-branded items, for more than 1,000 campuses. 

Our previous POS system wasn’t always able to integrate with the latest vendor enhancements. We wanted to expand the functionality and portability of our POS system, particularly for offsite sales at sporting events or other parts of campus.

[Read more: Container Store, Follett Higher Education partner to open pop-up shops on campus]

Follett was also looking for additional analytics capabilities that would enable us to make smarter, data-driven decisions that optimize our offerings to better meet customers’ needs. During peak periods with our previous POS system, we occasionally experienced slower transaction processing speed. 

Why did Follett decide to pursue frictionless checkout?

A frictionless POS system will significantly improve the speed and accuracy of our transactions, reducing wait times with a state-of-the-art, intuitive interface to make shopping more seamless for associates and customers.

In addition, we will be better able to cater to our customers' needs with personalized recommendations based on their online and in-store shopping preferences. We will have access to robust reporting tools that enable data-driven decisions and optimize our offerings for each unique campus environment.

Why did Follett select the frictionless checkout solution from GK?

We partnered with Kitestring Technical Services to support the selection of our new POS vendor. We set out to find a system that was not only top-notch in terms of technology but also ready to go right out of the box. We identified several vendors who could potentially meet this need, and we had our IT, security, and retail operation teams score each vendor on the criteria that mattered most to the campuses we serve. 

We down-selected to two vendors and set up both applications in our development and quality assurance lab. The POS project retail operations, security, and IT teams were invited to review, test, and score the software side-by-side in our POS environment. 

The full application and vendor scorecard was completed for these two vendors, and we ultimately selected the GK solution because it is equipped with advanced, cloud-based features and capabilities that will streamline our operations and help us serve our customers more efficiently. 

These include better reliability and advanced checkout features. In addition, automatic and instant upgrades will reduce or eliminate reliance on Follett back-office servers. 

Other benefits include easy to utilize, out-of-the-box functionality with some customizations available, integration with our business systems with minimal development work and an intuitive touchscreen POS navigation and flow.  

What results has Follett obtained?

We are still in the early stages of rollout so we do not yet have metrics to share, but we are excited about the benefits to our customers and confident we will see demonstrable improvement in the near future. 

Are there any future plans for you can discuss?

We have several key priorities that we are excited to explore with GK, including transforming the customer experience by integrating our new POS system with Follett’s extensive e-commerce offerings. Follett is also exploring loyalty integration as part of the partnership. 

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