Digital Makes Brands Think About Back-to-School Shopping Sooner

Deloitte research says that back-to-school shopping is becoming less important because the proliferation of digital media has taken away the urgency of buying before school starts. Because the shopping season is now starting earlier than ever, it’s that much more important for brands to stand out.

Though school is still a few weeks away, the #backtoschool hashtag is full of Tweets from brands like Staples, American Eagle Outfitters and Best Buy. Michael Berelian, group director of digital shopping at Geometry Global, thinks Forever 21 and Nordstrom have had the best marketing so far this shopping season. Forever 21 recreated consumers’ Instagram posts with a giant thread screen, while Nordstrom installed a massive Instagram post of its own on the roof of its Seattle flagship store.

“Everyone’s trying to get in the digital space right now and get on Instagram, and what’s hot in social media,” Berelian says. “Nordstrom’s great attempt really speaks to younger shoppers. Forever 21’s campaign is spot on because the customer they’re already targeting is that age. Digital is ingrained in Millennials’ day-to-day life; they’re much more omnichannel.”

Gigantic Instagram post takes over our flagship store rooftop for the Anniversary Sale. Click play to watch drone footage.

Posted by Nordstrom on Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nordstrom’s installation, which spans nearly 14,000 square feet, was designed for the retailer’s two-week Anniversary Sale, which bleeds into back-to-school shopping.

“By creating the gigantic Instagram photo, we’re bringing what would otherwise be a digital-only experience into the real world on a grand scale,” says Bryan Galipeau, director of social media and display at Nordstrom. “The 55-foot-tall leopard-print dress is a representation of an actual dress being sold during the Anniversary Sale; animal prints are popular for fall, and we wanted to feature a dress that would resonate with our Instagram community.”

Brands try to stand out during the summer because the convenience of the Internet has significantly extended back-to-school shopping season. For example, a Google Consumer Survey from earlier this month showed that nearly one-third of back-to-school shoppers had gotten started.

Berelian says mobile plays a huge role in drawing out back-to-school shopping. According to Google, 40 percent of last year’s back-to-school shopping searches were done on a mobile device; so far this summer, that number has risen to more than half of shoppers.

“With the emergence of smartphones, the fact that people have a computer in their hands at all times makes shopping such a different process,” Berelian says. “There’s a big swing in the pendulum for these huge retailers to bring digital pieces to a physical space. I think both [Forever 21 and Nordstrom] are leaning more toward branding and awareness than a conversion-driving sales tactic, but it’s definitely done with a very good point of demonstrating products and integrating them with shoppers.”

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