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Retailers Dangle Bait For Discount-Hungry BTS Shoppers

The kids may still be on the playground but the back to school season is in full swing. Too bad a quarter of retailers aren’t ready.

The rest, however, have been running at full speed prepping for the second biggest shopping period of the year, behind the holidays. This year by and large, they’ve decided to start marketing earlier, be more generous and employ more tactics than last year in an attempt to woo dollars from a harried, cash-strapped consumer.

“Discounts and deals are incredibly important this time of year to both retailers and shoppers. Parents want to maximize their spending power and are increasingly turning to mobile as part of their shopping journey,” said Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer for RetailMeNot.

A recent report from the discount shopping site reveals the results of two surveys, one of 1,000 U.S. consumers and another of 201 retailers.

The RetailMeNot poll, conducted by Kelton Global, found that although retailers have been paying lip service to scaling back markdowns, discounts will be plentiful. In fact, 81 percent of retail respondents plan to offer more deals this time around than last.

They’re also reaching deeper into their pockets to be top of mind. Eighty-five percent say they’re investing more in marketing in 2017. And just like the holiday season, BTS is creeping earlier and earlier every year with 80 percent of stores launching their marketing campaigns earlier than last year. About 40 percent of stores report beginning promotions in either May or June.

The early campaigning with a focus on discounts is probably a good strategy for this time of year given that 75 percent of the consumers in the Google Consumer Survey say money stresses them out as they ready their kids for a return to the classroom. And 42 percent say deal hunting specifically adds to the pressure.

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Only 8 percent of those surveyed say they never search for ways to save during BTS, compared to 23 percent who are always on the lookout and 30 percent who often keep an eye out.

Overall, nearly two thirds anticipate spending more than $100 per child, while a third will shell out more than $250.

“Thirty-six percent of parents agree they look for more savings during back-to-school than any other time of the year and nearly half of shoppers say price is the biggest determining factor in what they buy,” the survey found.

And what draws them in most? It seems more than a third (36 percent) are enticed by a percentage off, while 19 percent are happy with promotions that focus on dollars off. Tax free offers, buy more, save more deals and free shipping are all neck and neck at 15 percent, 14 percent and 13 percent. Only 3 percent care for cash back offers.

To match these expectations, retailers report offering an average of 30 percent off last year and $19 off.

But shoppers say how these discounts are deployed are also important. Respondents gravitate to promotions that put the whole store on sale versus those that pick and choose what they can save on. They’re less enthusiastic about gifts with purchase, gift cards and discounts on BTS collections specifically.

Consistent with the findings in the Deloitte BTS report, RetailMeNot found that more than half are loyal to brick and mortar locations. Another 22 percent plan to split their time equally between stores and e-commerce, and 20 percent are online all the way.

Nearly a third of shoppers will research their purchases on their phones or computers before committing to a purchase.

“For retail marketers, the opportunity to capitalize on omnichannel offers is more important than ever to reach consumers online, on mobile and in store,” Tarleton said. “Consumers are seeking discounts, and it’s imperative that retailers and brands meet them where they are with compelling content.”

In response to the online browsers and shoppers, 90 percent of stores are taking a omnichannel approach to the season. Further, 87 percent percent of retailers are upping their mobile marketing plans in 2017. For 62 percent of marketers surveyed, being ready for BTS means calling in reinforcements in the form of service providers who specialize in online and mobile promotions. They’re also looking to team up, extending their reach by partnering with other companies to advertise mobile promotions.