11 August 2017

Make the Most of Back-to-School “Holiday” Shopping

The other evening, as I was heading home from my mountain bike ride, I felt a little nip of fall in the air. Granted, I live in a mountain town and with the sun rapidly sinking behind a hill, the air was cooling off.

However, that sense of fall reminded me that soon our kids will be heading back to school. Indeed, many districts start as early as the first week of August and many schools are in full swing before September hits.

What does this mean?  Back-to-School sales! We are getting flyers in the mail already and many stores have their signs and displays front and center.

Did you know that Back-to-School retail sales are second only to December holiday sales? Indeed, Back-to-School spending was a whopping $75 billion in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation. That equates to more than $500 per shopper, 20% to 25% of which will be transacted  online. Walmart, Amazon, and Target are the winners here.

What is exciting for both retailers and manufacturers alike is that the spending flows across many categories—clothing, electronics, computer software and hardware, office supplies, and home furnishings.

How can you take advantage of the “holiday” shopping extravaganza?


Get Your Demographics and Personas Right

When we think of the school year, it is not surprising we think of adorable grade-school students in plaid jumpers and khakis heading out the door. It is true that this is one key target market—to the tune of 50 million students. However, last fall, more than 20 million students were heading back to colleges and universities in the US. In addition to these Millennials, Generation Z students—today’s teenagers—have a greater say in product purchases and more money to spend. Make sure that you are marketing to all these groups, as well as their parents, and are aware of the lengthy local school supply lists that are distributed each year for all these groups.

Be Prepared—Online and Offline

As we noted above, Back-to-School shopping occurs both online and offline. The key is to be prepared, and well-stocked, with everything that students and parents need. Get a hold of the supply lists of local school districts and college dorms and ensure that those items are easy to locate—both in-store or online. Nothing is more frustrating to a parent than spending an afternoon at the local Walmart, Staples, or Target or on Amazon.com—with supply list in hand—and still having a plethora of items that need to be sourced elsewhere. Creating a “store within a store” will help shoppers move through their list quickly and efficiently. Make sure shoppers can check off every single item on the list at one venue.

Start Early

Although it is already August, keep in mind that Back-to-School shopping, like Winter Holiday shopping, is starting earlier and earlier each year. This may be due to parents’ desire for deals that occur throughout the summer, or due to the known inevitability of Back-to-School shopping. This means that decreasing your time-to-market is as important in summer as it is later in the year. A comprehensive workflow, which includes a product content review and approval process, can help you execute faster and more efficiently.

Remember, too, that improving your product content and keeping it consistent across channels will help to create that “endless aisle” experience and improve the customer experience for all of your target customers. inRiver can help with both these important objectives. Contact us for a demo!

Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver