Back-to-School Shopping…on Twitter?

I am still a newbie to the back-to-school shopping game as my older son enters first grade this Fall. Nevertheless, I consider myself a shopping athlete (MVP of course) and always play to win in the retail game. When it comes to shopping, I am not the only one looking for the best deals to ensure that their child doesn’t arrive at the bus stop in anything less than the latest fashion, cool tennis shoes and perhaps a backpack full of the latest tech and mobile gadgets.

Deals and discounts

“Back-to-school spending is a very needs-driven event,” says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. “You can’t send your child to school with jeans that don’t fit.” At the same time, she says, the average parent is still striving to be frugal. NRF’s 2013 survey found that families with school-age kids will spend about $634 on clothes and school supplies, a decrease of about $50 compared to last year.

So where does the savvy parent find the best deals and offers these days? Social media of course – connecting with our favorite brands on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest benefits both our wallets and our closets by leveraging promotions, contests and of course the influence of our social networks. Consumers save money. Brands build up their social media communities. Social platforms increase ad revenue and everyone goes home happy – right?!

Wrong.

Shopping goes viral

The folks at Twitter want more (revenue) and are daring to take social shopping to a new level. They recently hired Nathan Hubbard, the former president of Ticketmaster, as its first head of commerce, as part of a push to enable shopping via short postings on its social website. Experts predict that a “Buy” button will be added to the existing Twitter Card advertising program, but nothing official has been announced to date.

Let’s think about bigger possibilities though. Twitter is famous (or perhaps infamous?) for taking news viral in record time across oceans and time zones. For example, more than 20 million tweets were sent during Hurricane Sandy’s takeover of the eastern U.S. seaboard in 2012. From concerned tweets from people on the opposite coast, to joke-based and fake tweets relating to Sandy, the event peaked at 1,600 tweets per minute. The power of Twitter is unrivaled when it comes to sharing information and influencing people. Imagine if even a small percentage of those #Sandy posts had a “Buy” button to purchase a t-shirt in support of the victims directly from the Tweet?  

The future of shopping

What will back-to-school shopping look like in 2014? Teens and tweens alike are known to respond to social influence, on- and off-line. Shopping trends that would normally spread slowly over a period of weeks or months could potentially go viral in a matter of minutes and offer consumers immediate and direct access to purchase via Twitter. Given the real-time nature of social media, brands will have the ability to revise product prices and promotions based on trends and predictive analytics.

The future of shopping is fast-paced, competitive, and colorful – now, that’s my kind of sport!