In the past, back-to-school shopping was no more complicated than a one-and-done stop for pencils and backpacks, but this year tech-savvy shoppers have relied on mobile Internet more than ever before, leaving retailers scrambling to keep up.
A recent survey by location-based shopping platform Retale showed that of 1,000 parents with school-aged children surveyed, 73 percent were using mobile in nearly every part of the shopping process. This ranged from viewing product deals and comparing prices to directly purchasing school supplies. Meanwhile, retailers must keep up with customers who expect mobile and e-commerce options while not neglecting in-store customer service.
The key, says Pat Dermody, president of Retale, is for brands “to lean in and innovate.” Seventy-nine percent of Retale respondents are relying on their mobile devices to make shopping lists, and Dermody feels that mobile is a great way for brands to “open doors for customers to be influenced and inspired.”
Google data shows that searches for back-to-school haul videos are up 70 percent this year. In response, companies like Target have released their own lines of dorm haul videos through their YouTube channels, with popular designers offering tips for dorm room decorating.
Dermody also believes that to stay relevant, brands must “connect through e-mail, online reserve services, delivery, and in-store concierge desks.” She also maintains that even though 65 percent of survey respondents are using mobile devices to compare product prices in-store, price isn’t always the deciding factor behind purchasing. She advises that “value also encompasses service, availability, and convenience” for most customers.
Finally, retailers and marketers must be aware of the changing needs of back-to-school shoppers. Nielsen reports that sales of traditional supplies like pencils, paper, and apparel are down, while sales of laptops and phones are up from last year. Dermody explains that the needs most shoppers have to fulfill are “much bigger than a lunchbox and a box of crayons; shoppers also need a flash drive and a $100-calculator.”
Marketers who fail to acknowledge these needs are in danger of being left behind. In an increasingly digitized age where laptops have replaced paper and mobile has replaced shopping lists, only the retailers who keep ahead of increasing customer demand for accommodation both on and offline will remain relevant.