Making the grade: Five ways retailers are ruling back-to-school

Between the new ‘cuts, kicks and clothes, it’s no wonder why back-to-school is one of retailers’ busiest seasons of the year – and 2017 just might mark the biggest and most successful yet.

 

According to The National Retail Federation (NRF), US retail sales in July and August are projected to grow 10% over last year, reaching an estimated $83.6B in 2017 – that’s nearly one-fifth of total retail sales in 2017! With the back-to-school season in full swing, retailers are pulling out all the stops to increase foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores by launching new campaigns and switching up how they market to consumers.

 

Here are five ways retailers are making the grade when it comes to back-to-school shopping this summer.

 

1. Early is on time; On time is late

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Back to School survey report, retailers who wait until late summer (read: August) to launch back-to-school campaigns aren’t doing themselves any favors. In fact, the report found that early shoppers spend more than those who shop in the weeks before classes commence.

 

If retailers are only now beginning to market the back-to-school season to potential consumers, they may already be too late. To entice early bird shoppers, retailers need to abide by the age-old adage: Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable.

 

2. Successful retailers are targeting the undecided shopper

To shop in-store, or to shop online? That’s the question undecided shoppers are asking themselves.

 

With the undecided consumer representing more than $5.4 billion in back-to-school shopping this season, retailers are actively pursuing those who haven’t committed to shopping online or in a physical retail store. In fact, Deloitte found that 68% of consumers are more likely to shop with retailers that offer free shipping and just over half prefer to do business with retailers that offer in-store returns on online purchases.

 

Undecided customers are more likely to visit stores that have early promotions, clear inventory visibility and in-store pick-up – and the most successful retailers are gearing their campaigns toward these shoppers this season.

 

3. Speeding up time-to-market with digital sourcing

How can digital sourcing help a retail brand’s sales, you might ask? Though retail sales aren’t directly tied to retailers’ digital sourcing efforts, the approach allows retail professionals to leverage the larger community efficiently and at any time. With digital sourcing tech, retailers have access to a wealth of knowledge around upcoming popular trends months ahead of their competition. This advantage allows retailers to create quality products, for a lower price, that consumers actually want.

 

4. Retailers are focusing on brick-and-mortar success this season

You’ve heard the rumors: Brick-and-mortar stores are on the edge of extinction. However, back-to-school shoppers plan to do most of their buying in physical stores, according to NRF. In fact, 57 percent of consumers will shop at physical department stores this season – and 46 percent will shop on brick-and-mortar retailers’ websites as well as pure e-commerce sites such as Amazon.

 

Despite an overall drop in foot traffic in recent years, “big box” retailers are still a key destination during back-to-school. Shoppers might be using mobile to do research on products, but are choosing to shop in store. By offering competitive pricing, and matching online deals, retailers are reaping the benefits in their physical stores during the summer months.

 

5. But mobile is still influencing in-store purchasing decisions

In-store sales might be soaring in July and August, but make no mistake: e-commerce sales will continue to boom. Online sales are expected to increase nearly 15% to $74B by the end of the back-to-school season.

 

Retailers who ignore digital campaigns and marketing in lieu of in-store deals are missing a growing consumer base in online sales. As shoppers demand an integrated, unified shopping experience, it’s crucial for companies to focus on both mobile and in-store – regardless of how badly their brick-and-mortar need the business.

 

Conclusion

The back-to-school season is poised to continue growing for years to come.  Retailers need to launch their back-to-school campaigns earlier than ever before, focus on in-store sales as much as mobile and nurture their relationships with current, potential and undecided consumers. The retailers that follow the guidelines above are destined to get an “A” this season.

 

How can brick-and-mortar stores keep up in the age of e-commerce after the back-to-school season ends? Read more on our blog: Amazon gives retail another wake-up call.

About Nate Fleming

Senior Director of Marketing

Nate Fleming is the Senior Director of Marketing at Bamboo Rose. Previously, Fleming was a technology market analyst and thought leader covering product innovation, software product development services, and digital transformation for Fortune 1000 companies.