Back-to-School Marketing: What's Your Strategy?
It's back-to-school season, and for businesses from retailers to technology manufacturers, that means one of the bigger seasons for business. In challenging times, you want to gain every edge possible. Consulting firm Deloitte conducts an annual survey of parents of school-aged children. There were 1,134 responses, although no details on how representational the answers were geographically speaking. But then, there are times when some data is better than none. Here are some of the results.
Parents expect to spend more
Fifty-four percent of parents expect to spend about the same amount as last year. That's flat from 2010 through 2012. However, the percentage that expects to spend less is 12%; it's been dropping steadily from 17% in 2010. And 34% of parents predict they'll spend more, up from 28% in 2010. So, if people spend the way this sample expects, there should be more money on the table than in the past two years. That, however, isn't necessarily good. The big reason they expect to spend more is price increases. So it may be that additional profits might not be that significant, and the volume of goods could remain flat, year over year. About two in seven, or 27%, expect to spend $500 or more. Another 38% will spend between $200 and $500.
Standby goods will be the rage
Demand for specific items has remained fairly flat. The biggest winners will be normal school supplies--paper, pencils, notebooks, and the like--as well as clothes, shoes, and, to a lesser extent, items such as backpacks and lunch boxes. If you're concentrating on technology and fashion accessories, expect some disappointment. Only 10% of parents plan to buy software or small computer-related items, with 10% also looking at jewelry, handbags, and personal fashion accessories. Those numbers have also gone down steadily over the last three years. That could be a factor of the expectation of higher prices and needing to get the basics squared away.
Looking for value
The biggest destination (91% of shoppers) will be discount shops and value department stores. People want to get all they can at lower prices. About 45% of shoppers will try office supply stories and one-third will head to dollar stores. Maybe that's because almost half of the parents still feel that the economy is in a recession. Where can independent businesses possibly get a toe hold? Online shopping, where 20% of parents plan to look. More than one-fifth expect to use social networks in their shopping. That means sharpen up SEO and online marketing with a focus on low prices.
Look into mobile--now
Almost two-thirds of smartphone owners plan to use their devices to help them in their shopping. They'll look for pricing, coupons, and ads. If you don't have a mobile-friendly site and haven't begun to make effective use of local shopping aids like the free tools in Yelp and online maps, now is the time to start. But we're in prime time for school shopping, so don't waste a minute.
The top is tops
About 88% of parents in households making $100,000 or more a year say that their financial situation is as good as or better than last year. If you target the economic upper crust, then expect that they'll have at least as much to spend as last year.
Of course, the real world could pull some tricks, so always be ready for sudden shifts. But working with some data will likely be better than flying blind.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.