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Deloitte: Back-to-school shoppers sticking to necessities; mobile shopping surges

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Consumers continue to hold tight to their purse strings and will rely heavily on online and mobile channels while they shop, according to Deloitte’s annual “Back-to-School” and “Back-to-College” surveys.

Shoppers are far more optimistic about the economy than this time last year. Nearly four in 10 (37%) are more confident in the economy’s prospects, compared with just one-quarter (26%) a year ago.

“Steady improvements in housing and employment, the stock market and personal finances give consumers reason to feel like they are back on solid ground,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail & distribution sector leader. “However, after several back-to-school seasons of spending frugally and taking advantage of season-long discounts, shoppers may need more encouragement and excitement to expand their child’s wardrobe or replenish additional items. Retailers will not only have to make offers very attractive this season, but they will have to score an ‘A+’ on unique, exclusive merchandise and services that nobody else can offer.”

The number of parents with children in grades K-12 who said they would buy only what the family needs (57%) increased five percentage points, and those who plan to reuse last year’s items jumped from 20% in 2012 to 35% in 2013.

More than ever, shoppers surveyed are going online and turning to their smartphones to make the most of their back-to-school budgets. Among top shopping destinations, 36% of consumers plan to shop online this year, moving the Internet to the No.3 destination behind discount and office supply/technology stores, a significant jump from the No. 8 position last year.

The Internet also shot up on consumers’ list of sources for information about back-to-school items, trumping all other sources and knocking television out of the No.1 spot. More than half (55%) of parents expect to head online, up 22 percentage points from last year.

Smartphones’ influence on back-to-school shopping also shot up dramatically in this year’s survey. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) of smartphone owners plan to use their smartphones to assist with their back-to-school shopping, up from 65% last year.

“Online and mobile channels are the season-winning plays for retailers this year,” continued Paul. “If retailers get in front of the consumer who is checking prices, product details or product reviews, they become part of the experience rather than disappearing into the clutter of back-to-school advertising. We expect to see strategic retailers do more than offer promotions through digital channels, taking the extra step to tie their efforts to popular school activities or social issues, or serve as a shopping companion or stylist.”

Competitive pricing remains the top mobile incentive. Two-thirds (66%) of shoppers plan to use their smartphones to obtain price information, while 60% plan to do so to obtain discounts, coupons or sale information — a 15 percentage point increase from 2012.

While the number of respondents relying on social media (21 percent) remains steady, the survey found a marked increase in their online activities. More than eight in 10 (83%) of these consumers plan to use social media to find out about promotions, up from 70% last year. The number of social media users seeking reviews and recommendations leaped from 39% in 2012 to 67% in 2013.

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Video Makes the Omni-Channel Retail Star

BY Dan Berthiaume

A former editor used to tell me “A picture is worth a thousand words – a thousand words you don’t have to write.” For omni-channel retailers, the value of video is even greater than that of still photography to journalists. As the popularity of online video content continues to climb with consumers, retailers ignore its potential as a means of customer engagement at their own risk.

The continued popularity of YouTube and prevalence of Facebook video postings, as well as soaring popular interest in social video platforms such as Twitter Vine and Video on Instagram, all demonstrate the fact that consumers are increasingly making online video a part of their daily lives. News sites increasingly offer popular stories in video format.

Any medium involving an electronic screen inherently lends itself better to video than text, which in digital format can be taxing on the eyes and hard to digest in bulk, especially on the smaller screens that are coming to dominate the world of Internet access. Many consumers probably expect your e-commerce, m-commerce and social pages, and even in-store digital devices, to feature video. Many more may not expect it but would surely appreciate it.

However, an intelligent omni-channel video strategy involves more than simply collecting a bunch of video content and throwing it in consumer’s faces. Retailers need to consider where consumers are, what type of Internet access they are using and what services they require.

Different video platforms fill different customer needs

For example, Lowe’s uses Twitter Vine videos, which are capped at six seconds each, to provide quick demonstrations of simple DIY tasks like removing a stripped screw from a hole. Obviously consumers using Vine are not seeking in-depth instructions on complex tasks and the high degree of mobile Twitter usage makes it an ideal platform for delivering real-time, how-to tips.

Meanwhile, YouTube is a good home for longer videos guiding users through multi-step projects or the features of complex, expensive products such as automobiles and home electronics. Social networks like Facebook and Pinterest are ideal platforms for letting consumers share their own videos evangelizing a retailer’s brand and/or products. A retailer’s home page, as well as in-store digital displays, are good locations for displaying shorter promotional videos and demos. Retailers may want to display different videos on their mobile sites that are better suited for a small screen.

Video evolves as full-fledged channel

Video technology is also evolving to the point where retailers can conduct video commerce. Using interactive video solutions, retailers can let customers click on items displayed on videos for purchase and also select different parts of a video for close-up views, customize certain aspects of a video and even engage in simulated conversations with video characters.

Thus the video format is moving beyond a means of promoting, demonstrating and explaining products and evolving into a separate channel in and of itself, rather than as simply an add-on feature for existing channels. Any omni-channel retail strategy truly worthy of the name needs to incorporate video to some degree today; before long video will stand on its own as a customer engagement and transactional tool equal in importance to brick-and-mortar, online, social and mobile.


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Rite Aid courts seniors with new ad campaign

BY CSA STAFF

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid, the third-largest drug chain in the nation, is pursuing the lucrative senior market with its latest marketing campaign centered on its new extension to the Wellness+ loyalty card program.

The integrated campaign for Wellness65+ features seniors actively engaged in activites like swimming laps, riding a roller coaster or having a water fight with grandchildren. It promotes the various features of the program, which is aimed at seniors and provides several benefits in addition to the standard Wellness+ program. Ad agency Marc USA created the program.

"Amid new healthcare legislation and the growing array of options, heath care can be more confusing than ever," Rite Aid SVP marketing John Learish said. "A key goal of Wellness65+ is to create ongoing dialogue between Rite Aid pharmacists and their patients to better help them reach their wellness goals. Retail brands have an opportunity to create in-store experiences and offerings that foster stronger relationships and truly build loyalty. It’s just one more way we can provide value. Wellness65+ provides seniors, one of our most important consumer bases, with products and services specifically targeted to meet their needs."

Wellness65+ will be supported by direct and digital channels, including social media. A cross-country mobile tour will visit more than 30 Rite Aid markets between now and March 2014, with partnerships in each city between Rite Aid and local organizations to host special community wellness events for seniors and their families. These will include free health screenings, pharmacist consultations and local experts on fitness, finance, legal and technology issues.

"Each Wellness65+ TV spot opens with a senior reflecting… ‘How did I get here?’" Marc USA chief creative officer Bryan Hadlock said. "The scenarios personify health and wellness as being able to do what you enjoy most whether it’s a physical challenge or special moments with the people you love. The spots complete the loop by showing the role of the Rite Aid pharmacist in the senior’s life — helping each customer get to a place where he or she is living life to the fullest."

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