Back-to-school shopping runs like clockwork – every year, shoppers flock to stores and websites for school supplies, fall clothing, dorm-room furnishings, and more. This is undoubtedly a critical season for retailers — so how can they make the most of it?
Increase Store Traffic
The biggest challenge that retailers must overcome during back-to-school season is getting shoppers to come into the physical store. Most back-to-school shoppers are parents with limited time and budgets, so many choose to simply order what they need online and have it shipped to their home. However, if retailers can entice them to come into the physical stores, there is a greater opportunity for up-selling and impulse purchases. When a parent comes in to buy new sneakers for one child, his/her other siblings may also realize they want something, and if the parent sees there is a sale, the chances of buying new sneakers for all the children increases significantly.
A great way to get shoppers into the store is by offering special in-store-only promotions and deals. Other options, like buy online pickup in store, or buy online return in store can be helpful because they increase the chance that the shopper will exchange the item for another, rather than simply returning it for cash.
It’s important to note that retailers need a strong omnichannel approach in order to foster in-store shopping – you can’t have one without the other. Website ads, social media posts, and physical fliers should all serve as amplifiers to promote deals that are available and serve as informational tools to encourage shoppers to head to the store.
Leverage In-store Sales Tactics
Once shoppers are in the store, retailers should be prepared to act on up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. A great approach starts by enticing shoppers with a personalized touch. Each store should be prepared with supply lists from local schools and consider offering package assortments based on what each grade/school requires. Next, placement within the store should be intuitive and clear, with all related materials displayed together. For example, signs might point first- through fifth-grade shoppers in one direction, then college shoppers in another. In the first grade area, there might be tissues and hand sanitizer placed near the markers and notebooks, while the college area might host a special laptop sale. Target, for example, is localizing their stores through their “School List Assist” website, which shows you exactly what school supplies you should buy (or order online and pick up) at your local Target store.
Pay Close Attention to Timing
Getting the timing right is critical for back-to-school shopping because the window is limited and retailers want to avoid having excess stock. Part of timing is about localizing offers – for example, schools in Atlanta may kick off the new year in early August, while schools in New England might not go back until after Labor Day. To make the most of this, retailers should start as early as they can with the right assortment of products and deals.
Use Machine Learning as a Solution
Leveraging machine learning solutions can give retailers a significant edge in the back-to-school shopping season. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can identify specific sales opportunities by product or by store, enabling retailers to have a truly localized store. This includes inventory placement to maximize sales, how to best allocate product to meet demand, or when to localize deals. This helps retailers reach new levels of supply-chain optimization, putting them in a better position to increase sales and adapt to variables with supply and demand. Ultimately, retailers with the best-optimized supply and demand chains are more agile and can provide services, assortments, and product offerings that outperform their competitors across the board.
Paying close attention to store data, supply chain needs, and a pragmatic approach that leverages machine learning and AI can help retailers achieve their most successful back-to-school season yet. By getting shoppers into the store and correctly timing sales, retailers can take their back-to-school strategy from simply repeating what they and their competitors did in the past, to being proactive and reactive to real-time demand.