Students are getting ready to head back to school, which means an influx of retail customers.

A lackluster winter season surely had some businesses hurting, but eMarketer predicts that 17.2 percent of retail sales will come from this end-of-summer shopping period. It may seem a bit early to think about the school year, but parents start planning and making purchases months ahead of time. Maximize your revenue by learning the 2016 trends influencing consumers and their buying behavior.

Mobile Influence

Many parents turn to their smartphones for help with shopping—Adweek reported that 60 percent buy at least one item on mobile platforms. It’s easier for many consumers to fit in browsing on their smartphone during downtime. Keep this channel in mind for offers and promotions, because a half-hearted mobile advertising campaign won’t win ideal consumers over.

Technology’s Domination

Pencils, notebooks, and clothes still find their way into parents’ carts, but technology drives a substantial portion of back-to-school sales. K-12 students get an average of $917 in supplies, with The Journal reporting $343 of that goes to tech products. College freshmen tech spending goes even higher with an average of $470. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are in high demand and will account for many back-to-school purchases.

Brand Strategy Depends on Consumer Data

The growth of technology creates many changes and opportunities across all industries. For the retail market, you gain access to tools that make consumer data collection far easier. This information is necessary for brands to optimize many areas of retail execution, from POS optimization to insight into the competition. Regional trend data helps you get the right products into the proper stores. For example, you can match your offers and items up with published school supplies lists for the area.

CBS News reports that over one-third of parents already started their shopping, so you need to prepare your marketing campaigns now. If you wait until the back-to-school season is in full swing, you will fall behind the competition. Use data gathered during the 2015 season to help your decision making and supplement it with real-time data so you have an up-to-date strategy.

How Can You Compete With Large Online Competitors

Amazon and other large online stores offer a convenient shopping experience through their websites and mobile applications. They also leverage vast amounts of consumer data to send relevant offers, tailor product recommendations, and maximize profits per customer. Prioritizing the information you gather will enable understanding of these busy e-commerce channels.

Put related school supplies next to each other in order to increase the total cart value. Examine the customer flow around the store, the type of displays that attract the most attention, and how easy it is to find the right products. Gain insight into top-selling products so you can avoid out of stock mishaps during the busiest shopping days. Learn about the type of packaging that attracts the appropriate student demographic, such as fun, colorful styles for grade school and more mature presentations for college freshmen.

You need as much consumer data as possible to keep up with your competition online and offline. The back-to-school season brings you a much-needed boost until holiday shopping starts, but you need to prepare so your retail execution is ready for parents and students.

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