Back-to-school spending to remain flat at $27B | Retail Dive

“At the end of the day, retailers need to remember that the key to capturing their share of wallet during the crucial back-to-school season is all about nailing the customer experience,” Shannon Andrick, vice president of marketing advancement for Alliance Data’s card services business, told Retail Dive in an email. “Digital-savvy consumers – college students and parents – are using a range of traditional and online tools to shop for the coming school year. They can research, compare pricing and seek out promotions and loyalty programs – and use these tools to make purchases that will make both the retailer and the customer happy.”

Back-to-school marketing begins in earnest even before the school year ends for many, but most of the spending for the season — 17% or $19 billion — will take place at the end of the summer, between early July and late August, Deloitte says. More than half (54%) of shoppers will be finished stocking up for school by August, but 25% won’t be done until after school has started, according to Branding Brand, which surveyed younger shoppers.

When it comes to shopping online, most families (57%) are using their computers, with mobile gaining ground (49%) and tablets left in the dust (22%). However, social media is also a factor, as more than a quarter (27%) of shoppers take to social media to find deals (75%) or a coupon (67%). Just 3% of back-to-school shoppers pay using digital means, preferring to use debit cards (57%), credit cards (48%) or cash or checks (42%). Despite some research that buy online, pickup in store services can drive traffic, less than a third (31%) will eschew straight store shopping due to such services, according to Deloitte. Branding brand, though, found that 18% of back-to-school shoppers plan to pay for their purchases using Apple Pay.

Back-to-school shoppers’ propensity to stick to stores means that merchandising and display remains critical, but flexible pricing is also important, says Paul Milner, marketing director for electronic shelf data firm Displaydata.

“When we think about all the money that retailers spend on attracting customers during the back to school season – the store environment, print and TV advertising, SEO, etc, the one area that hasn’t dramatically changed for the customer is the shelf-edge and their desire to actually see and touch the products they want,” he told Retail Dive in an email. “There’s something else important at play here too – we know that around 90% of all retail transactions still take place in-store. … Right now, a more agile approach to pricing is critical – especially as we enter the ‘unofficial’ beginning of the holiday shopping season. With long–term customer loyalty and holiday sales at stake, retailers need to move beyond the constraints of manual pricing strategies.”

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Back-to-school spending to remain flat at $27B | Retail Dive.