Scoring an ‘A’ With Back-to-School Shoppers
Back-to-school (B2S) shopping, the second largest shopping season of the year, is now in full swing and growing in popularity with consumers. With B2S shopping no longer just constrained to one specific day, there’s more opportunity than ever before to draw shoppers into stores and online. To make the most of their B2S marketing efforts, retailers should be aware of some significant trends in consumer spending.
At my firm Cardlytics, we recently launched a new Back to School research report focused on what’s happening in the lead-up to the first day of school. We see three trends that will significantly impact the bottom line for retailers in the current B2S shopping season:
- more frequent shopping trips drive growth for B2S retail sales;
- specialty retailers see the biggest share gains during this period; and
- consumers make B2S purchases for a longer period of time online vs. in brick-and-mortar stores, even after school officially starts.
A Closer Look at the Trends
American consumers are getting savvier as they stock up on everything from school supplies and dorm room décor to shoes and apparel. Shoppers do their homework by visiting multiple stores and carefully researching their B2S purchases. And B2S retail spend is increasing year over year, largely driven by an increase in shopping trips.
What’s more, specialty retailers are the real winners during the B2S season, as shoppers shift their spending to more focused retailers. While all categories are growing, consumers are increasingly targeting specialty retail stores instead of visiting e-commerce sites or one-stop-shop broadline stores.
Finally, our research analyzed B2S spend over time, and the findings reveal that online B2S spend persists after in-store sales drop off. In fact, consumers stay online to shop for as long as a month after in-store sales taper off at the end of August. This is an important point: the brands that get an extra boost are the ones that not only seek to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar locations, but also promote B2S-related items online, even after the first day of school has come and gone.
Extra Credit for Retailers
Here are four key recommendations for maximizing the B2S opportunity as consumers browse more stores and make purchases more frequently:
- Highlight specific categories in your ads. Since today’s consumers are savvier, their shopping behaviors are getting more and more specific. This means ads tailored to customers' interests will win out over more generic ones.
- Have promotions that reflect offline and online purchase behavior. Be sure to extend your B2S ads and promotions for a longer period of time online to entice more consumers to visit your e-commerce site.
- Invest in top-of-the-funnel activities. Since consumers are more willing to shop around to check items off their B2S shopping lists, don’t be afraid to invest in traffic-generating marketing tactics to attract new customers.
- Hold your current customers tight. With shoppers on the hunt, don’t give existing customers any reason to spend elsewhere. Stay relevant with engaging B2S campaigns and bump up your retention and loyalty efforts.
In short, B2S drives more trips to more stores across several categories and, as a result, more spend. The retailers that prepare for B2S as a distinct shopping event and adjust their marketing efforts accordingly — both in-store and online — will capitalize on this great opportunity.
Dani Cushion is the chief marketing officer at Cardlytics, an advertising and technology company connecting buyers and sellers via online and mobile banking channels.
Dani Cushion is the Chief Marketing Officer at Cardlytics (NASDAQ: CDLX). With a focus on driving significant company growth, she has built out a best-in-class global marketing and communications team, and helped the company go public with the first tech IPO of 2018. Previously, she was SVP marketing and communications at Millennial Media, where she saw the company through its IPO and numerous acquisitions. She began her career in sports marketing at Major League Soccer, ISL, Millsport, and SiriusXM, and currently sits on the Board of Directors for not-for-profit organization Women in Technology. Dani graduated from Lehigh University with a Marketing major, and minors in Philosophy and Economics. She started every game for the women’s soccer team while there, and captained the squad her junior and senior years. Dani lives in Atlanta with her husband, three children, and a bunch of crazy pets.