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Targeting the online back-to-school shopper

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It may only be the middle of July, but back-to-school shopping is on retailers’ minds. Parents with children in grades K-12 are expected to spend $26.7 billion this year, but that’s down from 2012 as consumers say that economic pressures continue to be important factors in purchasing decisions. In NRF’s initial survey about back to school shopping sentiments conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, parents noted that they’ll be looking for coupons and store-brand products to stretch budgets, not to mention evaluating what can be re-used for the coming school year. This year, more than one-third of back–to-school shoppers will do part of their shopping online. With these factors in mind, here are tips to target these budget-conscious consumers: Get online shopping basics right. Online back-to-school shoppers plan to spend an average of $896 on clothing, shoes, school supplies, and electronics or computer-related goods – or 41 percent more than all shoppers.

  • What this means: Over half plan to do more comparison shopping online this year, so make your products easy to find by fine-tuning your product detail page. It’s also important to use video and customer reviews optimally to instill confidence and convey shipping and sales tax information right at the start of the checkout process. This will go a long way to ensure no last-minute surprises and to make sure customers don’t abandon ship.

Back–to-school shopping has already started. Over one-third of online back-to-school shoppers started two months before the start of school, compared with just 23 percent of all shoppers.

  • What this means: If your online presence isn’t talking about back–to-school right now, you could be leaving significant money on the table. At the same time, there is an evolving trend whereby back-to-school shoppers don’t feel the need to finish shopping before school starts. In an era of fast fashion, some students may continue to buy well into the fall as new deliveries reach stores and kids figure out what’s “cool” among their peers.

Students will be spending some of their own money. Parents expect teens to spend an average $44 of their own money online, compared with $30 across all households. Furthermore, households shopping online expect even their younger children to spend an average $30.

    • What this means:
    • Opt-in text-messaging lists developed from in-store and social channels can be an effective way to reach teen-age customers about specials, in-store events and other offers.
    • Mogreet notes that text messages have a 95 percent open rate, with most opened within three minutes and a 14 percent click-through rate. Charlotte Russe last year reported tremendous success in growing their list by including a video in a text that also included a coupon. Text marketing – and marketing to individuals under 18 – is tightly regulated, so make sure you’re following all rules to the letter.

    Leverage mobile. Our recent State of Retailing Online report reinforced that smartphones and tablets are changing the marketing mix. So it’s no surprise that online back-to-school shoppers plan to use these devices significantly to research products, compare prices, look up retailer information, redeem coupons – and, yes, actually buy.

    • What this means: Ensure that your smartphone presence emphasizes what a consumer on the go will want most: retailer info such as location and hours, product and price details, and the ability to redeem coupons easily. A retailer’s tablet presence should take into account that the consumer is more likely to be using this device while at home and perhaps in less of rush. With this mind, provide rich product information and price information, and ensure easy purchasing capabilities by testing the checkout process to be sure that it is tablet-optimized. Use video to prominently feature information and tell the product story, and leverage additional features to support in-store purchases such as inventory availability, maps and directions, and more.

    For the full survey results for back-to-school shopping, visit the site.