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.
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
In May 1897, Mark Twain was on a world speaking tour. While in London, he heard that an American newspaper had printed his obituary. When told about this, Twain remarked, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
The retail industry could say the same.
It is true that we have seen the likes of Sports Authority, Rue21, The Limited, Wet Seal, and BCBG Max Azria file for bankruptcy protection. In addition, many department stores, such as Sears, Macy’s and JC Penney have closed locations. However, the so-called “Retail Bloodbath” may not mean an end to brick-and-mortar stores.
In fact, the US Census Bureau recently reported that retail sales were up nearly 4% in the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.
These data suggest that multi-channel retail—including brick-and-mortar stores—is not going away. So, how can retailers stay afloat and even excel at both traditional and digital shopping? The key is to bridge the online and offline gap. You need to re-create the offline experience online. And, in turn, generate an “endless aisle” experience in the store.
Use your online experience and interactions to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Email, push notifications, and social media all provide you with opportunities to promote local discounts, products, and events that can drive shoppers to stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and ship-to-store options can boost revenue, while increasing convenience for the shopper. And there is that added benefit: while the customer is in your store to pick up that special item, it is likely that they will acquire additional items on impulse.
This can also apply in the other direction. If a product is out of stock in your store, “endless aisle” technology can allow your customer to order the item online while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.
Successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing. For example, Best Buy displays product reviews and ratings on the shelf next to the product. Providing consistent product data across channels ensures that customers who found a great product online can find that same item in-store. By improving SEO and enriching product information, Primeau Velo was able to decrease customer online search time and increase in-store sales simply because shoppers could more easily find products they were seeking.
Another tactic is to personalize catalogs, adverts, and mailers based on online data. When retailers can draw insights from online interactions, printed materials can extend the digital experience and provide a seamless customer journey—from e-commerce to catalog to conversion.
Regardless of your retail industry, all your markets and channels need to tell the same story. This way, your customers will encounter a consistent brand and product experience no matter where they start their journey.
But to accomplish this, you need a single source of accurate product information.
When your catalog production in Europe can draw from the same information as your e-commerce engine in the U.S., you can go to market more quickly with new seasons or assortments. You have the means to enrich your product content so you are relevant to customers no matter which channel they are using. You can also more easily align offline experiences and online interactions, creating a consistent and satisfying customer experience.
The result? You build stronger relationships with your customers and realize higher sales and greater customer loyalty.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager
Just because retail stores are experiencing some hard times does not mean that shoppers aren’t making purchases. It is true that US. retail sales fell again in June 2017 (by 0.2%) after a small decline in May (by 0.1%). However, two months of small declines after 16 months of increases may not yet be a “trend.” Let’s wait and see. Summer vacations may spur some impulse vacation shopping and spending in restaurants and at summer resorts.
In the meantime, let’s look at a trend that does seem to have some upward momentum—pop-up shops. Vogue calls pop-up shops the future of shopping. With some retailers leaving malls and store-fronts due to a myriad of reasons—downsizing, bankruptcy, and changes in marketing and sales strategy—pop-up shops are taking advantage of these vacancies. Some retailers are now hesitant to sign long-term leases, leaving more locations available for pop-up shops.
Goals of Pop-up Shops
Constructing a pop-up shop can provide you with many benefits. For retailers who are selling only online, having a popup shop can provide that “touch and feel” opportunity for customers to interact with their products. The increase in foot traffic can raise visibility and brand awareness. Pop-up shops can help you to create a deeper relationship with your customers—building loyalty or showing your appreciation for their business. You can test a new market and educate prospective customers on your product line. In addition, you may be striving for “Boundaryless Retail”—a notion introduced by Mindy Grossman of HSNi—the expansion of products into more and more channels.
Location of Your Pop-up Shop
How do you decide where and when to erect your Pop-up Shop? Economics, such as the cost of rent, marketing, and inventory, will likely have a huge impact on your decision. However, store-fronts and malls with high foot traffic that are close to your target demographic should be considered.
Products That Work Well for Pop-up Retail
When we think of pop-up shops, we invariably think of temporary Hallowe’en and Christmas stores. It is true that seasonal products are a good option for pop-up shops. However, other products are also conducive to this format. Products that are an impulse buy, have a lower price point, or offer the shopper a taste of affordable luxury are good possibilities for pop-up shop success. In addition, products that support the urgency to buy are also promising. After all, the pop-up shop is only there for a limited time!
Get Started with Your Pop-up Shop
inRiver PRIME Partner, Sophelle, recently published their latest Focus Report, entitled “Boundaryless Commerce: Pop-up Retail.” We invite you to learn more about the strategies, tactics, and technologies that are available to support you in this effort. Don’t miss this trend and opportunity! Download the report today.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver