Back-to-School Shopping Starts Early
Schools across the country have barely closed their doors, but already retailers are gearing up for back-to-school shopping. According to eMarketer’s “Back-to-School Ecommerce Preview 2015” report, U.S. retail sales will grow a relatively strong 4.6% during the core back-to school shopping months of July and August. Retail ecommerce sales will rise 14.4%, passing $56 billion to represent 16.5% of full-year retail ecommerce sales. Similar to the holiday season rush, back-to-school shopping continues to move earlier year by year. It’s argued this shift is driven by the retailers themselves and their desire to get to the wallet early before the summer months dry it up. A large factor of the extended shopping season is also due to online browsing beginning earlier. In a world where consumers have more options to compare, more channels to browse and more deals to take advantage of, they are beginning their online shopping weeks before deciding what to buy. The National Retail Federation (NRF) found in 2014 that 22.5% of adult U.S. Internet users shopping for kids ages six to 17 started two or more months before schools started. With school starting back up in September, online browsing could start any day now. Despite the extended browsing period, the buying window remains compact. According to April Anderson, industry director for retail sales at Google, 75% of all back-to-school shopping is completed in two weeks or less. So what does all this mean for retailers’ back-to-school strategy? First, retailers must ensure they are meeting the needs of consumers during that online browsing period, with a website that is user-friendly, visually appealing and mobile-optimized. Additionally, when accounting for a two-week buying window that can vary in timing depending on the customer, retailers must ensure they are “always-on” when the shopper is ready to shop. A back-to-school strategy that addresses these two trends will ensure they do not lose the very important omnichannel customer during one of the most critical shopping seasons of the year.