Gearing Up for Back-to-School Buyers

By | July 13, 2010

Have Your Customers Done Their Homework?

Now that it’s the middle of summer, school is the last thing on kids’ minds. But online retailers are already gearing up for what could be a lucrative back-to-school shopping season.  Considering that parents spend around $250 per child for products ranging from backpacks to computer software, savvy online shoppers are looking for the best deals around.  A recent study on online consumer behavior from Compete.com revealed that today’s shoppers are becoming increasingly attuned to the variety of options available before they buy.  From review sites to price comparison engines, moms and dads buying back-to-school goods have more ways to save than ever.  Not surprisingly, the main shopping tool they turn to is an overwhelming favorite – search engines.

compete For online sellers, the question then becomes: how do you get in on the back-to-school buying frenzy before it becomes a battleground? Here are a few proven strategies:

Email Lists and Segmentation

Basic Jansport Backpack: $30

Basic Jansport Backpack: $24

Premium Kipling Backpack: $150

Premium Kipling Backpack: $150

Being able to properly segment email newsletters is a crucial marketing strategy for online retailers. Whether you’re selling lunchboxes or laptops, being able to segment your list toward the types of products your customer is likely to buy will help increase conversion rates. A few segments include targeted age ranges and grade levels (lunchboxes vs. laptops), gender (boys’ sneakers vs. girls’ dresses), or whether the customer tends to purchase based on necessity/functionality, or based on style. For example, a mother may opt to buy her child a generic backpack based on the need to carry books, or she may buy her child a brand-name backpack based on the desire to fit in and look cool – these are two completely different types of customers, who can be segmented based on brand selections and price-points.

Start Now Instead of Playing Catch-Up Later

A study by BizReport and Burst Media found that the bulk of back-to-school shopping will be done in July and August, with September wrapping things up. By far, consumers will spend the most in August (38% of shopping dollars). Researchers found that only about 15% of shoppers are cutting back on supplies this year while nearly one-quarter (24.9%) will spend more than they did last year. While you might have outdoor barbecues and swimming pools on your mind today, starting early on announcing back-to-school deals will save you from having to fight for the customer’s attention and business later. The bottom line? Start early to attract the masses – you may even offer incentives for pre-orders.

Use Social Commerce to Your Advantage

According to Eric Best, CEO of Mercent, the newest strategy to crop up on the e-tailing horizon is that of social commerce – combining social networking and e-commerce. The concept itself is a bit of a misnomer, given that there’s very little emphasis on commerce and a great deal more on the social aspect of it. Best notes, “our customers are primarily thinking about engaging with customers in a non-shopping context. REI, for example, is providing updates on hiking trails and new national parks that are opening. They’re providing a lot of value-added content through their Facebook page. It has almost nothing to do with shopping but everything to do with establishing credibility and a dialogue with customers.” That kind of relationship-building results in becoming memorable as a brand rather than as a one-stop venue for back- to-school supplies.

The Final Word on Preparing for Your Back to School Launch

Even though the economic forecast is uncertain, e-commerce continues to grow by leaps and bounds. People are feeling more comfortable making purchases and doing transactions online, causing e-commerce orders to balloon by 25% in May alone. Your customers are doing their homework, so start now segmenting your list and be proactive on the social networks.

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