Back-to-School Shopping Season: What Does it Mean for Marketers?

August is an exciting month for retailers, as “back-to-school” shopping is the second-largest season with about $84 billion in consumer sales. It is also an indicator for the performance of the holiday shopping season to follow, and helps retailers forecast their fourth quarter earnings, plan their fall advertising strategies and media buys.

As with every other vertical, the Internet has truly impacted the way people research, browse and ultimately purchase. This year, retailers have experienced yet more change in the shopping habits and patterns of their consumers. The NRF reported that the average family with children in grades K-12 has already completed 52% of their back-to-school shopping, up from 40% at the same time last year. This strongly supports that families are more-value focused than before, and are looking to take advantage of shopping opportunities that save them money. This year’s back-to-school shopping season started as early as four weeks sooner than usual, with 30% of online shoppers making back-to-school purchases two months before Fall 2013 classes start.

With this information, retailers, and more specifically ecommerce marketers, should consider beginning their holiday advertising about four weeks earlier than usual in order to accommodate the budget-conscious consumer. Analyst Liz Dunn of Macquarie Capital said that “business is suffering from an absence of clear fashion trends and is instead relying on the effect of promotions,” encouraging retailers to really take advantage of their digital strategies in order to usher in sales.

 

Mobile

Mobile isn’t a device, it’s a channel, and marketers should be treating it as such. 79% of moms with children in school own a smartphone, and rely on them to get through their hectic days. Marketers should be enhancing their mobile campaigns in order to capitalize on these on-the-go moms who make most of the back-to-school purchases for their families.

Marketing Automation

Personalizing messaging on-site is a great way to grab the attention of your consumer and encourage them to convert then and there. Over the last couple of years, marketing automation tactics have become more widely used by marketers as a way to enhance lead generation and boost sales. Retailers that utilize content personalization and dynamic interaction across paid media and email are rewarded with stronger conversion rates.

Integrated Marketing

It goes without saying that if you, as a retailer, embark on a promotional campaign, then make sure the terms of that campaign are recognizable across channels. The same goes for integrated marketing, where all of an organization’s resources, goals, technology, data and measurement are aligned in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency and performance. Truly integrated marketing is equally as important as consistent messaging across campaigns.

 

So what if you can’t heed this advice for the almost-past back-to-school shopping season? Easy. Apply them to your holiday strategic planning. With about $580 billion in consumer spending to come in the latter half of Q4, these insights will help you get more bang for your digital advertorial buck. But start the brainstorming sessions with your teams now, because this holiday season’s shopping cycle will begin as early as late-October.

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