Back-to-school shopping has never been an easy process. It requires a certain amount of planning, strategy and, most importantly, patience. For that reason, pencils, notebooks and fall clothes are the last thing on my mind while I’m busy soaking up the sun during family vacations. Yet, as the summer months have sped by, it’s becoming more difficult to ignore the school supplies list looming over my head.
Busy parents, like me, are always on the hunt for convenient solutions, and retailers can capitalize on these preferences through a few considerations.
Align promotions to the right products and channels
As a working parent, there are always products on my radar throughout the year, whether it’s a new backpack, shirt or lunchbox. And the easier it is for me to purchase the items I need, the more time I can spend with my family. The companies that save time and are competitive with in-store shopping are my go-to destinations—and it appears 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. This signifies that retailers can expect online shopping to outpace in-store shopping in the near future, allowing retailers to focus on drawing traffic to their websites through promotions and sales.
On the other hand, retailers don’t want to lose consumer enthusiasm too soon before the sale. When is it too early to start promoting? As painful as it was to see back-to-school promotions before July 4, it is 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. In an analysis of social data around back-to-school shopping, it was found that parents prefer to purchase folders and pencils later in the season, while they tend to buy expensive electronic purchases around deals and sales.
Retailers can use these insights to promote expensive items in advance and inexpensive items later in the season. Once promotions are executed, retailers can then focus on creating efficiency for the consumer.
Increase convenience to drive sales
With the increase in technology, time and price are becoming key players in the purchasing decision. This is especially true as Millennials transition into parenthood. Unfortunately, as technology continues to make our lives more convenient, back-to-school shopping analysis reports that customers often have a neutral to negative sentiment when it comes to shopping—online and in the store.
Altering traditional customer service to add more convenience and less effort for the customer, however, can help drive the sale. In fact, customer service is as important as price and time spent shopping. Because Millennials are more accustomed than other consumers to self-service, 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 the retailer apart will help to draw traffic. Customers may not recognize the service off-hand, but the convenience and help they receive will build loyalty.
Convenience plays a major role not only during back-to-school season, but also when consumers are prepping for the busiest shopping time of the year—the holidays. Using back-to-school shopping trends as a preview for the holiday season, retailers will benefit from adjusting to these strategies to reflect consumer preferences, all the while making every parent’s life a bit easier.
Lori Mitchell-Keller serves as senior vice president and head of Global Retail at SAP. She oversees retail solutions strategy, field support, solution roadmap definition and go-to-market strategy.