Back-to-School 2014: The Biggest Trends and Tips for Retailers
The back-to-school (BTS) season is dwarfed by the year-end holiday season, but with close to $75B at stake this BTS season, it's no small matter for retailers. A recent survey by e-commerce personalization software provider Baynote, in conjunction with the e-tailing group, looked at the behavior of today's BTS consumer and offered insights that are useful to retailers which want to make the most of the short but sweet BTS season. Here are four key takeaways that retailers should heed:
1. Content has a powerful impact on BTS shoppers. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents view school-supplied lists as very influential on purchase behavior, with the proportion increasing in the grade school age group. In addition, a whopping 70 percent of respondents said they would shop as a family in their local store. How can retailers capitalize on this trend?
First, create great promotions that can be deployed in all stores. Next, give stores the ability to modify according to their market, profitability models, traffic and the like. Finally, empower and encourage local stores to reach out to schools in their community to communicate offers and promotions. Schools hold tremendous sway and many partner with local retailers on programs like eScrip, which find a responsive audience in their communities. Local retailers can do the same to drive traffic to their stores.
2. It's a family affair. Student wish lists (38 percent), product reviews (32 percent) and purchasing guides (27 percent) were seen as very influential with respondents. Let's assume that the better the product review and the more informative the purchasing guide is, the more likely an item is to land on a student's must-have list. Savvy retailers will feature great content prominently on a special BTS microsite or landing page.
Additionally, they'll understand their target age group and design and promote their content accordingly. Facebook is the most popular social channel for students across the age groups, with 58 percent to 60 percent of them using it to complete their BTS shopping. Facebook's recent growth in mobile ad revenue only confirms the viability of this channel and its impact. Google+, Pinterest and Twitter follow closely behind, making it crucial for retailers to continue the dialogue with students via the social channels where they reside.
3. Social sells and mobile connects. The mobile shopping revolution continues with BTS consumers … but there's a twist. The survey showed that smartphones and tablets are used "all the time or frequently" to research products, brands and pricing promotions. Smartphones are the connector and continue to grow as a purchasing channel, with 34 percent of respondents claiming they would buy more on smartphones this year than last. As an extension of the store experience, retailers must ensure that these critical features are easily deployed and accessed on smartphones and tablets.
4. Influencing across the spectrum. Regardless of channel, there were clear winners in the influence department. Email promotions and paper catalogs get a lot of attention — almost 40 percent of all shoppers across channels. However, Amazon.com topped the list, influencing 50 percent of online shoppers and 36 percent of in-store shoppers. Therefore, if you've been afraid of Amazon's shadow in the BTS season, be confident that social, mobile and local strategies will carry the day, especially when complemented with your own effective merchandising and outbound campaigns.
Marti Tedesco is the senior director of corporate marketing at Baynote, a provider of software solutions for retailers.