With another school year approaching, families are scrambling to catch up with the latest trends that will send kids into the year in style. As the online shopping revolution continues to accelerate, consumers have more choices at their fingertips than ever before and competition is fierce, although the shifting trends also bring tremendous opportunities for creative retailers ready to capitalize. Keeping an eye on the approaching school year, here are a few things to consider as the back-to-school shopping season heats up.
The earlier the better
Although there does tend to be a mad dash right before the start of the school year, savvy retailers positioned to bring in early back-to-school traffic are poised to reap the benefits. According to a long-running survey by Deloitte, early shoppers consistently spend more overall than those who begin shopping later in the season. Instead of simply ratcheting up social media, marketing and sales campaigns at the very end of summer, retailers that get out in front of the rush stand to profit from shoppers willing to spend a few extra dollars to get back-to-school shopping out of the way.
Function is trumping flashy
With clothing representing more than 50 percent of back-to-school shopping, you might think that the season is all about promoting the right colors and newest fashion trends. While partly true, the top retailers are also adding crucial doses of practicality into the mix, particularly when it comes to tech-based merchandise. As tablets, cell phones and laptops become more and more mainstream even for younger students, many backpacks and clothing items have built-in slots for the hottest tech products, adding a fresh wrinkle to the process. Having products that are as functional as they are eye-appealing can give a retailer a tremendous step up on the competition as mobile tech continues to be an undeniable driving force in the marketplace.
Accessories, accessories, accessories
As kids look to promote their own personalities, add-on accessories like emoji icons, stickers, keychains and more are now a huge part of the back-to-school shopping season.
For kids looking to display a little flair, light-up mirrors and even mini chandeliers for lockers have become popular options for the new school year, which further opens the door for retailers with unique products and clever marketing campaigns. Meanwhile, basics like plain notebooks are quickly falling out of favor with students who would rather personalize thanks to an uptick in the availability of custom accessories.
20 percent of shoppers are undecided
Even if there are plenty of shoppers who have their minds made up when it comes to shopping in-store or online, more than $5 billion is spent each back-to-school season by shoppers who classify themselves as undecided. This provides a significant opportunity for retailers to pitch their products and shows that shoppers are open to new trends that haven't been determined yet. Such shopper flexibility also shows that many shoppers are open to new ideas and products they haven’t previously considered, allowing new retailers a potentially lucrative path forward during a hyper-competitive shopping season.
Mass marketers are as formidable as ever
Many shoppers still prefer to go into a store, particularly for items like clothing, yet the trends are extremely clear when it comes to mass marketers versus traditional department stores. Deloitte found a drop of more than 50 percent for shoppers expected to go to a department store in 2017 versus 2016. Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of shoppers planned to utilize online mass marketers. Although the trend itself shouldn’t be particularly surprising, the raw numbers paint a fairly startling picture about the extent in which conglomerates are expected to dominate throughout the season. While trendy brick and mortar stores can certainly still break through, it is the merchants who have a complete omnichannel solution that will win. Having a game plan to capitalize on the rapidly changing marketplace is absolutely essential as shoppers continue to spurn traditional shopping methods for the convenience and competition offered by mass marketers.