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Retailers: Give students the supplies they need without cutting their summer short

As summer comes to a bittersweet close, our kids are ramping up to start another new school year. And what better to get them excited and prepped for success than new supplies? For our budding scholars, a fresh pack of pencils and a bright assortment of folders might be just the right start to the school year. For parents, we are one long supply list from sending our kids off to school prepared and back to a steady routine. Savvy shopping is a must in order to get the best products at ideal prices.

For retailers, it is important to focus on the timing and the prices of our stock, without sacrificing service.  SAP has the latest on back to school trends through social media insights of over 3 million consumer conversations online – insights for an impactful 2015 retail strategy.

Don’t Cut Summer Short

Summer is a time for adventure and rejuvenation. The kids are at camp, playing in the yard, or on their last summer before college taking a much-needed break after the passing of another year at school. The furthest thing on families’ minds in early summer is the looming school year; it can be overwhelming.

SAP’s research reports that the overall consumer sentiment towards commercials about returning to school doesn’t become positive until the end of July. Sentiment hangs lower than negative 20 percent before July and only shows a positive margin after August 1st. In 2013, the sentiment towards commercials stood at negative 46 percent. Let your customers enjoy their summer, without pressuring them to start thinking about the school year too early. In fact, retailers should be hard at work preparing the sales and deals that will ease them into the fall.

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While running a commercial provides little value, deals and sales receive positive sentiment year-round. SAP’s research actually suggests retailers should time promotions to match the buying season of certain products.

According to the National Retail Federation, 25 percent of shoppers will take advantage of late summer deals, crossing items off their supply lists one to two weeks before the first day of classes. For example, SAP reports that apparel, supplies, and electronics sell better in August anyway, so why aggressively push too early in summer?

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It’s clear that parents shop for supplies like folders and pencils later in the season. They also time more expensive electronic purchases around deals and sales. A good rule of thumb: don’t start the conversation of going back to school without first providing a direct impact of savings to your customers.

Send the Right Message and Maintain a Service

In 2013, we saw more chatter around in-store purchases. In 2014, the in-store chatter has proportionally decreased, with 50 percent of shoppers purchasing online. We have seen a 13 percent increase from 2013 to present. If the trend continues, online shopping is set to outpace in-store shopping in 2015.

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Knowing that your shoppers are looking online for school supplies, it’s increasingly important to cater your messaging to leverage the environment in which they are purchasing. According to the National Retail Federation, 33 percent of college students and parents compare prices online, up 31.7 percent last year, increasing the frequency of purchases by 21 percent. The NRF reporting the 18.6 percent increase as the highest reported in six years. Retailers are aware of the seismic shift to online school shopping, but many are not setting the precedent for consistent online experiences. SAP reports that the overall consumer sentiment online about customer service ranges from neutral to negative.

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Yikes! Retailers, provide a positive start to the new school year for students by making customer experience a priority online.

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  • Good article (and perfect timing! 🙂 ). Nicely done, Desiree!

    As a consumer, couldn't agree more with these findings. We tried to do as much shopping as possible at local Target and they even had copies of the supply lists from the local schools in store. But then the actual items from the lists were not available. Makes me wonder why the buyers didn't actually look at those lists beforehand... Surely there must be some SAP solution for that. 🙂

    Thank you.