TECHNOLOGY

Study: Mobile, social media promotions top back-to-school investments

BY By Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Besides exceeding their 2016 efforts, retailers’ back-to-school marketing investments are going digital this year.

This was according to the “2017 Retailer and Consumer Back-to-School Insights Guide,” a report from RetailMeNot. The study, which was conducted June 6-12, tapped 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18 and over about their back-to-school spending and deal-seeking goals.

According to the study, 85% plan to invest more in their back-to-school marketing efforts this year compared to 2016. At the top of their list of investments, 89% of retailers will increase their marketing spend on mobile, and 88% plan to increase social media spending. Meanwhile, 70% of retailers will issue mobile offers through a partner platform.

These efforts respond to shoppers’ demand for a seamless, integrated shopping experience. Yet, nearly 1 in 10 retailers indicated they do not have an omnichannel promotional plan for this season.

"Discounts and deals are incredibly important this time of year to both retailers and shoppers,” said Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer, RetailMeNot. “Parents want to maximize their spending power and are increasingly turning to mobile as part of their shopping journey.”

With 63% of parents reporting they will spend more than $100 per person on back-to-school shopping, and 33% spending more than $250, it is not surprising that BTS shoppers are looking for deals. In fact, 36% of parents agree they look for more savings during back-to-school than any other time of the year. Nearly half of shoppers (49%) say price is the biggest determining factor in what they buy, and 70% of RetailMeNot users are anticipated to look for deals on their mobile device.

The shopping journey also isn't limited to just one channel this season. More than half of shoppers (54%) surveyed do the majority of their back-to-school shopping in a physical retail location, and nearly 1 in 3 (28%) always search for items online before going in store.

"For retail marketers, the opportunity to capitalize on omnichannel offers is more important than ever to reach consumers online, on mobile and in store,” Tarleton said. “Consumers are seeking discounts, and it's imperative that retailers and brands meet them where they are with compelling content."

Consumers are likely to do the bulk of their spending in August, and the top shopping day is expected to be August 5. While other top shopping days will occur in the first two weeks of August, the number two biggest back-to-school shopping day is predicted to be on Labor Day, September 4, according to data.

The back-to-school shopping time frame is the longest shopping season in the U.S., lasting nearly three months. The highest level of consumer engagement with back-to-school content on RetailMeNot happens between July 9 and September 9.

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TECHNOLOGY

America’s favorite home furnishing retailers are…

BY Marianne Wilson

A wholesale club giant beats out specialty retailers to rank as the nation's favorite home furnishings retailer.

Costco Wholesale Corp. is ranks first among consumers when it comes to home furnishings, according to a study by Market Force Information. With a composite loyalty score of 72%, Costco earned the top spot. But Ikea was a close second, with a score of 70%.

Target (68%), T.J. Maxx (64%) and Kohl’s (63%) rounded out the top five. They were followed by two specialty retailers, Home Goods (62%) and Bed, Bath & Beyond (56%).

For the rankings, Market Force Information polled nearly 3,500 consumers, who were asked to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a home furnishings store and their likelihood to recommend it to others. That data was averaged to rate each brand on an aggregation of the two measures – a composite loyalty index. Market Force also looked at the attributes that drive these preferences, analyzing factors such as merchandise and brand selection, cleanliness and value.

Consumers said Ikea offers the most selection and at the best value, according to the study. Target scored the highest marks for customer service and speedy checkouts, and Costco ranked No. 1 for store associate availability.

In other findings:

• Seventeen percent of those studied said they have a home furnishings store-branded credit card. Of those, most use Kohl’s (55%), Target (43%) and Costco (29%). Very few have one for Ikea or Bed Bath & Beyond.

• Twenty-four percent indicated they participate in the loyalty program offered by the home furnishings retailer they most recently visited. Kohl’s had the highest participation at 61%, followed by Big Lots, Ikea and Costco.

In order to be included in the category, a traditional home improvement brand must have been selected by 100 or more respondents representing 2% or more of total. Only Ace, Menards, Lowe's and Home Depot qualified).

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TECHNOLOGY

Retail giant launches new services, tools for back-to-school

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is making it easier for parents to stay on their game during this year's back-to-school shopping season.

According to the National Retail Federation, this year's season is expected to be a strong one and start early. Walmart is rolling out new services to help shoppers easily find what they are looking for — in stores and online.

On the brick-and-mortar front, Walmart is touting “back-to-school” associates who will be ready to direct customers to open cash registers, find the shortest lines and grab any last-minute items before shoppers finish checking out.

Online, Walmart is launching a dedicated back-to-school destination – walmart.com/classroomsupplies – that features a section called TeacherLists, where teachers can upload supply lists. The tool enables shoppers to enter their zip code and pinpoint their individual classroom list or a general grade supplies list.

Currently, the site lists nearly 500,000 classroom lists. The number is expected to grow to more than a million by the end of August, representing a majority of schools and classrooms across the United States, according to Walmart.

The discounter said it also has "significantly" expanded the number of items that can be bought online and picked up in store, and made “hundreds” of back-to-school staples eligible for its Online Grocery Pickup shopping service. It also has doubled the number of items availa-ble for same-day pickup — an assortment that includes the top 400+ back-to-school items, the retailer said.

“We’re saving our customers time with easy ways to shop and multiple ways to get these items to students,” said Scott Bayles, VP of stationery, Walmart U.S.

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