Are You Ready for Back to School?

Your checklist for Back to School readiness

The Back to School marketing season, which spans July through September, is the second most important season for retailers after the Christmas holiday season, driving $72.5B in revenue in 2013. And this year, families are expected to spend $670 on average on back-to-school shopping, up 5% from last year, according to data out Thursday from the National Retail Federation. Internet is the top source of research for BTS shopping: 62% of shoppers will go online to search for BTS deals, prices, and availability.  64% are influenced by promotions, most will start research late July and purchase mid-August (3-week purchase cycle). And most of this research is being done on a mobile device, with 61% of shoppers starting their shopping on Smartphones, and 11% starting their shopping via tablets, while only 25% start on a PC.

Unique to this season is that we find consumers are increasingly shopping for themselves, with an average spend by segment:

  • College students: $500
  • High school students: $383
  • Elementary: $286
  • Preschool:$206.

What does this tell us?

You can optimize your marketing programs by segmenting your customers, communicating based on their needs and reaching them at the point of decision. Consider a few steps you can use to optimize your marketing program for this high-traffic season.

Know  your customers

You need to have a solid understanding of your target audience.  Is it the mom? The teacher? The student? What are the specific needs of each, what kind of dialogue do you need to have with each segment? What is the value of each segment, and how much should you spend on each segment?  When a teacher searches for notebooks, she will probably influence hundreds of notebook purchases, while a parent will affect 5-10 notebooks, and a self-buyer might affect 1-2.  At the same time, there are 20-25 students/parents per each teacher, so parents will make up on volume where teachers have the advantage on average order value (AOV). Business decisions will need to be made on how to prioritize the budgets, are we going to focus on teachers or parents?

Once you define and prioritize audience segments, you can create dialogues with each segment based on common wants and needs. Customize messaging, call to action and target KPIs.  For example, parents may average a smaller AOV, but they will have many more transactions than the self-buyer.

Deliver more value from your customer data

When these audiences go online and start searching, how do you keep current customers from going somewhere else? Do we have a cost–per-retention campaign in winning back customers that are about to make purchases from competing sites and locations? This can represent big dollars and loyalty from your customers. If you have not done it already, identify your audiences, both by segment (parents, students, teachers, self-buyers), as well as seasonal shoppers. And compare their seasonal shopping habits against their normal shopping behavior. Build your audience pools for Search, Display and Social from this information in advance of the all-important holiday season.

Make the most of "mobile moments"

Smart retailers know that the impact of mobile is much greater than that of a standalone channel. Though mobile conversion may lag other channels, mobile plays a huge role in building loyalty. Remember, you are engaging with your customers on a mobile device in your own store or at a competitor’s, so it is up to you to ensure that your customers are receiving a relevant message based not only on their preferences, but also location. Separate your online campaigns, not only by audience, but also geo context (e.g., are they in the store, close to the store, or nowhere near my store?). That will also affect your messaging and success KPIs.

Looking forward to an exciting Back to School Season! 

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