4 Tips to Prepare for Back-to-School Shoppers
Like most parents I know, I avoided back-to-school shopping as long as possible. School supplies and fall clothes were the last things on my mind during camp sessions and family vacations. As July sped by, I had no choice but to face the shopping lists. I felt like the family in “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the 1950s movie with the efficiency expert father. How could I get all of the shopping done without losing time? Here are four ways retailers are addressing my predicament:
1. Online shopping to the rescue: As a working parent, I'm a more devoted shopper than ever. The online companies that save time and are competitive with in-store shopping are my go-to destinations — and it appears that I’m not the only one. Back-to-school shopping trends indicate that 50 percent of people shopped online in 2014, an increase from the previous year. Retailers can expect online shopping to outpace in-store shopping in the near future. This allows retailers to focus on drawing traffic to their websites through promotions and sales.
2. Consumers live (and shop) in the moment: As painful as it was to see back-to-school promotions before July 4, it's even more painful to see holiday decorations in stores now. Social media mentions are one technique that can enable retailers to create successful promotions that better align to buying seasons. An analysis of social data around back-to-school shopping revealed that parents prefer to purchase folders and pencils later in the season, while they tend to buy expensive electronics when there are deals and sales. Retailers can use these insights to promote expensive items in advance and inexpensive items later in the season.
3. Customer service and the consumer experience: Customer service is as important today as price and time spent shopping. And as millennials have more disposable income and transition into becoming parents, the importance of time and price are likely to grow. Millennials are more accustomed than other consumers to self-service, which means retailers need to make it easier to find information about products and services. Whether this is in-store or online, delivering a unique customer experience that sets your brand apart will help to draw traffic.
4. Utilizing time, effort and price: Time and price are the key decision makers when it comes to a customer purchasing a product. Unfortunately, as technology continues to make our lives more convenient, back-to-school shopping analysis reports that consumers often have a neutral to negative sentiment when it comes to shopping, both online and in-store. On the other hand, altering traditional customer service to add more convenience and less effort for the customer can help drive sales. Customers may not recognize the service off-hand, but the convenience and help they received will build loyalty.
Taking these back-to-school shopping trends into account will enable retailers to benefit from adjusting strategies to reflect consumer preferences. While it's unlikely that any of us working parents will resort to “Cheaper by the Dozen” tricks (e.g., timing our kids’ tooth brushing), we're all amateur efficiency experts.
Stacy Ries is the global media relations director for consumer industries at SAP, a software and technology solutions company.