Back-to-School Promotions: Keeping Up With a New Generation of Shoppers Post-Click
Each year customers are getting younger. Savvy brands are now focusing their efforts on appealing to the next generation of shoppers, including tweens, teens and young adults. As of 2022, Gen Z (currently aged between nine and 24 years old) made up 20.88 percent of the U.S. population, so it makes sense that brands are turning their attention to this demographic as part of their sales and marketing strategies. While Gen Z won’t peak for another 10 years to 15 years, they also have a huge influence on Gen X — their parents — not only to buy items on their behalf but also for themselves.
With summer winding down, brands are taking advantage of the back-to-school shopping market, which saw a surge last year with a 40.6 percent spending increase per family for kindergarten through to 12th grade students. While usually a staple event in the fashion brand calendar, beauty brands are also getting a piece of the action using social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat to promote "back-to-school beauty." With 97 percent of Gen Z choosing social media as their top method for researching shopping methods online, and an average of 24 hours to 48 hours per month spent on TikTok, brands can’t go wrong with offering social commerce tools like in-app checkout.
Although there's certainly a lot of focus on attracting the younger generation of shoppers, brands must also recognize the importance of appealing to the needs of this audience post-click — from delivery and order fulfillment to aftercare and reverse logistics.
According to research, 87 percent of Gen Z wants a personalized shopping experience. That shouldn’t be limited to the front end of the journey. Brands have the opportunity to personalize the entire end-to-end experience by offering post-purchase product customization, branded packaging and supporting a variety of delivery options.
The Age of the Influencer
Influencer endorsement and the use of social media influencers have risen dramatically over recent years, accelerated further by the advent of social platforms such as TikTok and the use of livestreaming. According to the State of Influencer Marketing 2023: Benchmark Report, influencer marketing has grown into a $21.1 billion industry. Today, however, influencers don’t necessarily mean celebrities. Many brands have shifted their approach to incorporate more "everyday" social media users or "micro influencers" to plug products in a bid to appear more believable and down to earth. Despite these efforts, the question remains over exactly how influential influencers are, with many consumers beginning to see through this marketing trend. While Gen Z audiences are said to value influencer marketing more than any other generation, if the product and service don't live up to expectations, this will soon see the relationship unravel.
Accurate forecasting and ensuring ample stock to keep up with surges in product popularity, therefore, is extremely important. Utilizing historical data and continued monitoring is crucial to react to any sudden increase in demand. Additionally, exploring pre-orders or backorders as an opportunity to better influence inventory planning could also be an option. Implementing an effective warehouse management system can also help brands be aware of where their stock is located and deliver it to the customer in a timely fashion.
Keeping Up With a New Set of Expectations
Having grown up in a connected world with instant access to information, people and products, Gen Z is used to instant gratification and actively seeks brands that can provide this. Appealing to this generation, therefore, will require speedier delivery times — facilitated by optimized inventory and ultimate preparation. Brands should consider a multinode fulfillment approach to support these elements by decentralizing fulfillment and utilizing alternative delivery methods. In doing so, supply chains can be shortened, meaning quicker turnaround times and lower shipping costs. When underpinned by distributed order management (DOM) technology, brands can have visibility of inventory across multiple locations, allowing them to offer customers the option that best meets their delivery preferences.
Visibility also enables the swift location of inventory, which is crucial during surges in demand — such as the summer season for back-to-school items. This optimization enhances efficiency by ensuring orders can be routed to locations with available stock, freeing up valuable storage space where excess stock was previously sitting. Being able to quickly re-route orders from one distribution center (DC) or store to another in this way ensures the customer receives their order within a sufficient time frame and has an overall positive experience reflective of what they saw with the influencers they follow.
Cost vs. Conscience
In addition to speed, today's consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability and expect brands to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. As mentioned previously, multinode fulfillment allows brands to get products closer to consumers, shortening the last-mile delivery distance and, in doing so, reducing their carbon footprint. Packaging also plays a key role in sustainability while also appealing to demands for personalization. Sustainable packaging options don’t have to come at the cost of personalization. In fact, recyclable packaging can still include branding and customization.
It's also important to consider the bigger picture when it comes to sustainability. When asked how they would describe sustainability, Gen Z consumers were more likely to say sustainable means being socially responsible, locally produced, labelled or certified as responsibly sourced, carbon neutral, and supporting biodiversity. Retailers and brands, therefore, need to adopt a holistic approach to being eco-friendly, taking into account how they can reduce their carbon footprint at every step of the product journey.
While consciousness in relation to shopping behaviors should be a key consideration for brands, the price-conscious shopper shouldn’t be forgotten. Driven by cost, recent PFS research found that 25 percent of Gen Z respondents fell into the price-conscious category — making it essential to strike the right balance between cost and conscience when targeting younger generations.
In for the Long Haul — Building and Maintaining Loyalty
Capitalizing on the Gen Z market makes good business sense for growing brands. By following these strategies, retailers can not only capture the attention of this generation but maintain loyalty in the future. Considering the whole customer journey is essential to building lasting relationships, the post-purchase experience shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Understanding this new audience and the way they like to engage with your brand will be pivotal to maximizing success during the back-to-school season and likely even more so during the holiday peak that's just around the corner.
Sara Nix is director of business operations at PFS, where she manages e-commerce fulfillment operations for premier brands and retailers.
Sara Nix is Director of Business Operations at PFS where she manages eCommerce fulfillment operations for premier brands and retailers. Leveraging 10+ years of experience leading efforts across every aspect of the post-click operation, Sara offers a wealth of industry knowledge that spans multiple verticals, including health & beauty, jewelry and luxury.