Omnichannel campaigns targeting back-to-school shoppers

Omnichannel Commerce

When it comes to peak shopping periods, the holidays are king but back-to-school is often queen for many retailers. People spend a lot of money purchasing supplies and other good for their children (or themselves) in anticipation of the new school year. Retailers from all niches can cash in on the back-to-school fervor, regardless of whether they sell traditional office supplies such as writing utensils, paper, clothing and apparel or consumer electronics such as laptops and tablets.

But back-to-school shopping habits are changing. One report from NBC News noted that customers are redefining the way they think about goods that would traditionally be seen as “school-related” items. Additionally, they are spending their money more cautiously – the news source noted the average person would spend $434 on back-to-school purchases this year, which is a 20 percent decline compared to 2014. Many people are reusing supplies or otherwise do not feel the need to purchase new goods. Others are shifting their back-to-school shopping to other times of the year – for example, laptops are no longer considered back-to-school items by many consumers. Others yet are hoping to find bargains, discounts, sales, coupons and other means of saving money.

Retailers will need to adjust how they approach the back-to-school season if they still want to capitalize on the spending period.

The drop off of back-to-school spending does not mean the market has disappeared – people are still expected to make purchases en masse, they are just being smarter about their money. Retailers will need to adjust how they approach the back-to-school season if they still want to capitalize on the spending period.

Retail Solutions Online reported that offering an omnichannel experience will be key this back-to-school period. People are using multiple sales avenues to research purchases, find deals and complete transactions. Retailers must respond by meeting customers at all of these points of sale and offering a highly flexible, highly relevant shopping experience. Omnichannel features and functionality, whether offered in the form of in-store pickup or a multi-channel promotional effort, can make or break sales.

Engaging consumers with omnichannel campaigns

Several retailers and merchandise manufacturers are starting their back-to-school initiatives with robust omnichannel campaigns, spanning a multitude of digital and physical channels.

Retail Solutions Online noted the JCPenney initiative is a stand-out omnichannel effort, with the company utilizing a mix of catalogs, magazine ads, streaming video, mobile apps and other digital elements. The campaign drives prospects to a website that allows them to mix and match outfits. The social component of the campaign, which allows customers to “share it, buy it and rock it,” is pivotal in that it not only generates sales, but may also pique the interest of other shoppers, helping JCPenney to drive even more shoppers to online and brick-and-mortar stores.

WallFlower Jeans, a lifestyle brand, is also launching an omnichannel campaign utilizing point-of-sale quick-response codes.

Product manufacturers are also looking to capitalize on the back-to-school craze, which may help them bolster sales both at retail partner locations and their own stores. WallFlower Jeans, a lifestyle brand, is also launching an omnichannel campaign utilizing point-of-sale quick-response codes. People can use mobile apps to scan the QR codes, which are featured both on product tags and on marketing collateral such as videos, tying together an engaging campaign that allows customers to see how articles of clothing fit and put together unique looks.

“We are excited about this new in-store venture,” Nathan C. Mamiye, president of WallFlower Jeans, told Retail Solutions Online. “The integration of QR codes in stores is an innovative way to reach young consumers by generating engaging content that is a natural fit for the brand.”

If customers are spending their money more cautiously, competing for every cent becomes even more important. A unique promotional campaign and shopping experience, utilizing digital elements such as QR codes and social sharing features, is a great way of engaging customers and setting retailers apart from the competition.

Bolstering the ease of the shopping experience

Retailers shouldn’t stop their omnichannel efforts with the promotional campaign either. The recent annual Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation emphasized the importance of other omnichannel retail features that can improve the ease of the shopping experience.

Simply put, customers are always looking for more flexibility. Nearly half of customers buying back-to-school goods are looking to use “buy online, pick up in store” features to help them save time and bolster convenience. Other popular omnichannel features include ship-to-store (allowing customers to avoid expensive shipping fees on items such as mini-refrigerators) or online reservations that enable customers to avoid wasted shopping trips only to find an item is out of stock.

While there still may be be a month or so left before the start of school, now is the time to kick off back-to-school initiatives. People will shop late into the season, so it is critical that merchants get started now and maintain campaigns even after the beginning of the school year.

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