TECHNOLOGY

Deloitte: Back-to-school shopping trends include early start, shift to mass merchants

BY Marianne Wilson

Retailers who wait until late summer this year to launch back-to-school deals are only hurting themselves, because early shoppers will spend more than late starters.

That's according to Deloitte's "2017 Back-to-School Survey," which also detected a big shift in where back-to-school will be shopping this year. One thing that hasn't changed: In-store still prevails.

Sixty-percent of back-to-school shoppers plan to hit stores by the end of July, spending an average of $532, which is 16% higher than the remaining 40% of parents who will start shopping in August or later, according to Deloitte. Those later shoppers are projected to spend only about $458 per student.

Deloitte, which polled 1,200 parents of school-aged children in grades K – 12, found that shoppers expect to spend an average $501 per student on back-to-school this year, on par with last year. The total spend is expected to hit an estimated $27 billion.

The survey revealed a shift in where parents will be doing their back-to-school shopping. The majority of survey respondents (81%) plan to shop at mass merchants, a 24% increase over last year. Off-price stores also gained fans, climbing to 28% from 10% in 2016.

Department stores and specialty apparel stores, however, are losing favor. Twenty-eight percent of respondents plan to shop traditional department stores this back-to-school season, down significantly from 54% last year. And only 8% of parents plan to visit specialty clothing stores, falling from 25% in 2016.

The survey also picked up a shift in the type of goods parents are buying this back-to-school season. Clothing and accessories are expected to account for 55% of families’ spending this year – up 10% from last year – mostly at the expense of school supplies and computers.

“With today’s technology-based education system there is less need for traditional school supplies, likely contributing to the shift toward more spending on clothing and accessories before children head back to school,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution practice leader. “Part of this shift may also come from the popularity of preconfigured school supply kits, which 30 percent of families plan to use."

Deloitte recommends that retailers make an effort to target the “undecided” back-to-school shopper – shoppers who don’t know whether they will shop online or in-store. Such shoppers are more likely to choose retailers that offer free shipping (68%), buy online and return to store (52%), and offer loyalty programs that provide faster or cheaper discounts when shopping online (49%), the study found.

“Retailers should aggressively pursue the ‘undecided’ consumer because they collectively represent nearly $5.4 billion this back-to-school shopping season,” Sides said. “This segment is up for grabs but likely to go to retailers that draw customers in early with promotions and digital experiences that make store visits even more attractive, like inventory visibility, order tracking or buy online/pick up in store.”

For more findings, click here.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Shoppers feel good about Whole Foods’ acquisition

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Consumers are feeling so positive about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Market that more plan to shop there in the future.

This was according to the “Amazon Shopper Sentiment Report” from ChargeItSpot. The study collected responses from over 900 shoppers at malls across the country, using its integrated survey capability, QuickPoll.

According to data, 84% of shoppers have positive feelings about Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods. Further, 62% of shoppers said they are more likely to shop at the grocery store after the acquisition is complete. Thirty-eight percent said this does not motivate them to shop at Whole Foods.

When shoppers were asked what Amazon should add or change at Whole Foods locations, their top three responses included the addition of cashier-free checkout (31%), lower prices (30%), and in-store pickup for Amazon purchases (19%). Other responses included grocery delivery (10%), digital wallet-based payments (7%), and a section dedicated to Amazon electronics, such as its family of Echo devices (4%), the study revealed.

"Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to expand brick-and-mortar operations and their high-profile acquisition of Whole Foods will help [them] achieve the scale they’re looking for in the grocery space,” said Douglas Baldasare, CEO and founder of ChargeItSpot. “It is encouraging for Amazon that consumers are already excited about their move into the brick-and-mortar space.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: More shoppers to participate in ‘voice commerce’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As the adoption of voice-controlled devices rises, so will the number of voice-enabled purchases.

This was according to “Walker Sands 2017 Future of Retail Study.” The report, which was conducted in late March, surveyed 1,622 consumers across the United States.

Nearly one in five consumers (19%) have made a voice purchase through an Amazon Echo or other voice-controlled device in the past year. Another 33% plan to do so in the next year.

With 46% of consumers reporting they prefer to shop online rather than in store, retailers face pressure to offer intuitive, responsive and personalized customer experiences, or risk missing out on sales. The introduction of channels, such as mobile and voice commerce, have created a tipping point, and more than three-quarters of shoppers (77%) now think the online customer experience will eventually surpass the brick-and-mortar customer experience, the study reported.

“In the age of the connected consumer, e-commerce has become about much more than online shopping or the point-of-sale,” said Dave Parro, partner and VP at Walker Sands.

“The proliferation of technology such as connected home devices, voice ordering and drones have dramatically shifted consumer expectations of retail,” he said. “Our findings suggest that the in-store experience is not going away, but rather there is a demand for a holistic commerce experience that is consistent, transparent and multichannel.”

The drivers of this new retail experience are:

• The Connected Consumer: Connected devices are an integral part of the consumer lifestyle, providing an endless variety of products and services available at the click of a button or with a simple voice command. While smartphone penetration has reached an all-time high (78%), emerging device adoption is also on the rise. For example, 27% of consumers now own some kind of in-home smart device, 24% own a voice-controlled device, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and 18% own wearable fitness trackers. Meanwhile, 13% own a virtual headset and 9% own a personal drone.

Connected Commerce: Increased comfort with digital shopping has pushed e-commerce to new levels, and technologies like voice-driven commerce introduce a new layer of complexity for brands and retailers. Nearly a third of consumers (29%) shop online at least weekly, a number that jumps to 37% for Millennials. Sixty-six percent (66%) of consumers have made a purchase through a mobile app in the past year, and one in four consumers report they always or often shop via mobile app; 38% shop regularly on mobile websites.

The Changing Customer Experience: The “always-on” nature of Amazon has created a culture driven by speed and price. Free (80%) and fast shipping (54%) remain the top incentives for consumers to purchase more online. Still, in-store shopping remains an important part of the experience for the youngest generation of shoppers (ages 18-25), and a majority (58%) prefer to shop in a physical store (compared to less than half of 26-45 year old consumers).

“The walls between channels will continue to fall as voice-controlled and connected home devices reach widespread adoption and the commerce experience becomes fluid,” said Erin Jordan, account director and lead of the retail technology team, Walker Sands. “Brands and retailers need to understand the always-on nature of consumers and identify the best way to add value through a consistent experience.”

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