Back-to-School Retailers: Step Up Your Social Media and Promotions This Week

Retailers seeking to grab extra dollars from back-to-school shoppers need to step up their social media game this week and draw consumers into the store by the end of July.

Parents will spend $488 on average for clothing, accessories, school supplies, computers, and other electronics for their children this year, according to Deloitte’s “2016 Back-to-school survey” of parents with children in grades K-12. However, the earlier the shopper, the higher the budget: Respondents who said they plan to start shopping for back-to-school by the end of July are likely to spend 26% more than those who begin in August or later. And more than half (58%) say they will begin shopping before August.

Take that into account with Deloitte's findings that 25% of parents plan to use social media to assist with their shopping and a battle plan for this week emerges. The No.1 reason parents surveyed will use social media is to find out about promotions (74%), followed by coupons (64%).

Retailers can beef up promotions this week and start getting them out on social channels to draw shoppers into the store. The majority of shoppers (61%) say they’ll research online before making a purchase in a physical store, but roughly two-thirds of the budget for traditional categories like school supplies (66%) and clothing and accessories (63%), will be spent in brick-and-mortar. Meanwhile, for online shoppers free shipping is key, as 62% of respondents say they are more likely to buy from online retailers who offer free shipping.

“Retailers are getting the online and mobile views and clicks, but customer engagement often stops there during this season,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and Retail and Distribution practice leader. “Back-to-school shopping has become more surgical and task-oriented as parents customize their own assortment based on discounts, free shipping, and pre-purchase options. That puts retailers to the test to create a connection that goes beyond just a deal-driven interaction with an indifferent shopper.”

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending will be up this year, but families are still looking for deals.

NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, found total spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $75.8 billion, up from last year’s $68 billion. A few more families are shopping for sales (43%, up from 41%) or comparing prices online (32%, up from 31%). But the number who saying they are spending less overall is down at 23% compared with 27% last year.

“Families are still looking for bargains, but there are signs that they are less worried about the economy than in the past,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

“The budget-conscious consumer is not forgetting about price, quality or value, and we continue to see this when it comes to back-to-school shopping,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “That is why many parents are taking advantage of shopping early, scouring ads and websites for the best deals, and taking advantage of free shipping with online purchases.”

Back-to-College Shopping

Retailers looking to boost online sales may want to target back-to-school promotions to college students. While parents mostly do the shopping for K-12 students, the latest consumer survey by Branding Brand, a mobile commerce and engagement platform for retailer apps, found one in 10 young millennials (ages 18-24) will purchase all of their back-to-college shopping online. The reasons include not dealing with people (36%) and that they can drink while shopping (10%), which may explain Barnes & Noble's new concept stores, which will offer wine and beer and table-side service. But the top reason Millennials don't shop online is shipping fees, so now is the time to roll out the free shipping on college related items.