5 Ways That Your Retail Site can Reduce Back to School Shopping Pain, and Increase Retail Conversions

As tired parents and teachers alike (not to mention students), get ready to celebrate the end of the academic year, retailers are already going live with their back-to- school campaigns (B2S). After the winter holiday season, it’s the second largest annual shopping event in the US.

In 2018, Deloitte expected back-to-school spending to reach $27.6b for K-12 grades. That’s an average spend per household of $510 on everything from school supplies to clothing and technology.

When you combine this with back-to-college spending according to NRF the overall figure was anticipated to be $82.8b.

The back-to-school shopping season accounts for about 50% of annual school-related spend and impacts 29m households and 54m children* (Source: Deloitte)

In terms of what products parents of school children are buying, it’s a mix of clothing and accessories – either uniforms or items that meet with the school dress code; school supplies; computers & hardware and electronic gadgets.

As students prepare to go off to college, the scope of what they are buying increases to include homewares for their dorm rooms and/or off campus accommodation.

Where there’s a retail event, there’s an opportunity to attract and convert customers using social proof messaging.

This effective eCommerce optimization tool works by collecting, aggregating and displaying the trends, opinions and reviews of other shoppers, in the form of real-time on-site messages.  By showing this product information on an eCommerce site, it’s 100% transparent what products are popular, how many are in stock, how they fit and how they’ve been rated by other shoppers.

Some of the largest online brands are now using Taggstar social proof messaging on their sites to market their back to school campaigns.  Read how this simple tool can engage customers and grow your back-to-school conversions:

  1. Be a ‘one-stop shop’

Mass Merchants are a major beneficiary of back-to-school spending because parents can buy school supplies, clothing that conforms to the school dress code and other items in a single shop while browsing for groceries. And, for online department stores and pure plays stocking multiple product categories, the opportunity is also huge.

Stocking technology products alongside clothing and other sundries from a single website, increases the opportunity to attract even higher average order values (AOV). What starts as a shop for school shirts and supplies, can see cart values increase as tablets, backpacks and sportswear are added.

For parents, there’s an obvious attraction to shopping online from the comfort of their homes, but there are caveats.

It’s a hard fact that children grow, and shopping online and without a sales associate means that they can’t try items on, nor can you check out fabric quality for that all important ‘non-iron’ feature.

Parents are also likely to be shopping late and at night when their children are in bed, can’t ask whether its on-trend.  Back-to-school shopping is also fairly stressful and dull. You’re not buying fun weekend dresses, you’re shopping to meet a hard deadline in early September, where you need perhaps to ensure that multiple school aged children have enough white shirts, shoes that meet the requirements of the school dress code (with no velcro to avoid peer humiliation…), all in the right size.

It’s why the product information, reviews and feedback that you get as part of the digital experience are key to whether parents buy online – and how much.

Whilst currently the majority of back-to-school purchases in the US are made in physical stores, 56% of back-to-school shoppers research first on-line – this gives retailers with eCommerce sites and physical stores the opportunity to guide and inform shoppers and drive footfall into stores – as well as to increase conversions on their eCommerce sites.

Furthermore in 2018 Deloitte predicted that consumers were undecided to the tune of  20% of their overall back-to-school spend, equating to $5.5b on whether to spend in-store or online.  Social proof messaging could be a powerful tool conversion tool.

Because the information contained in social proof messages is taken from the behavior of other customers – rather than the brand itself – shoppers are more likely to trust what they’re reading and to take this information on-board when choosing items. Because customers are influenced by what other shoppers do and say, these messages can help to engage and convert the back-to-school shopper.

For the retailer, social proof messages help consumers to navigate your website and find the right products for them. Imagine a search for non-iron shirts. The digital shopping experience is eminently better if a parent can see a ‘Trending’ message on items on the product list page, followed by ‘48 others bought in the last hour,’ and ‘rated 5-star for quality’ on the shirts.  These are details which both reduce precious decision-making time, and increase likelihood of purchase, improve the online experience, help customers engage with a product and ultimately make a retailer’s website more competitive and compelling.

A/B testing data from enterprise retail websites using Taggstar show that shoppers are up to 12% more likely to convert if they see a social proof message (over products without).

2. Provide a solution to size, stock and fit frustrations

Also related to the pressure of buying for a hard deadline, is the parental frustration of discovering that your child’s size is not in stock, or that sizing is inconsistent.  Sizes vary from retailer to retailer. Ordering the wrong size can be irritating for Mum, and humiliating for the child if the item is a poor fit.

What’s more, it’s now only July and bricks and mortar stores are already packed full of school uniform. Panic is already setting in of whether putting off buying now will result in items not being available in a month’s time as many retailers do not restock after the initial inventory drop.

Stock shortages as we get closer to going back to school are always a major problem. But it’s an expensive time of year and it’s not always possible for all parents to buy well ahead of time. For those that wait until late August, it’s disappointing when essential items are out of stock, or if you’re shopping online, if there’s no indication how many are available until it’s too late.

Online retailers have a major opportunity to own a larger slice of the back-to-school market in the US, finding ways to reduce the frustrations of fit and stock volumes are a key way to encourage loyalty and spend.

Social proof messaging can aid the back to school digital customer experience, by surfacing these important details. In coordination with enterprise retailers, Taggstar uses product volumes in the retailer’s data layer to display messages about stock and size like ‘Only three left in your size.’ These are specific to the customer’s search, and help in two ways.

Back to school shoppers can reduce the frustration of missing out on important items because they can see whether inventory is running low. Second, and an important benefit for the retailer, Taggstar messages inject urgency into the shopping decision.  Because the retailer has been transparent about their stock levels, consumers are encouraged to buy rather than miss out.

3. Convert early-bird shoppers

Summer is expensive. You’ve summer camps, days out and vacations to pay for, so it’s not always possible to buy back to school supplies early.  Moreover, there are some things that are not practical to buy in July.  School shoes for example are risky. Children are bound to grow out of anything bought earlier in the summer.

However, there’s a clear benefit in getting in early if you want to secure essential clothing items, and good deals on the wider essential school supplies, especially on technology items, which might be included in July 4th sales – not to mention Amazon Prime Day which many other retailers are now adopting as well!  In 2019 NRF predicts that 55% of shoppers will plan their back-to-school shopping during such sale events.

With an extended shopping period, eCommerce retailers can benefit by using social proof messaging to encourage early bird buyers.  In fact, it was predicted for 2018 that about two-thirds of shoppers (62 percent) planned to begin their back-to-school shopping before August, spending about $100 more than shoppers who get a later start (source: Deloitte). Messages that show how many of a product have sold, how many times they’ve been viewed, added to basket and critically, how many are left in stock, are proven to convert customers.

Why? Because they make the digital customer journey easier to navigate, and provide compelling reasons why a shopper should buy now, rather than wait.

4.   Convert more sales on high ticket items

If we think about the back-to-school market in its widest context, young adults going to college are the most expensive – and potentially profitable – retail cohort.

The higher-priced items like technology, and household goods like bedding, pots and pans, that are bought as students move away from home, can increase average order values, making this segment an attractive prospect.

Older students are also more likely to be making their own buying decisions for the first time as they transition into independent consumers, which is another opportunity for online retailers to attract and retain them as loyal customers.

However, the more expensive the product, the longer the decision-making process, and technology sales rely heavily on experts, making it imperative that online retailers optimize their eCommerce channel with help and advice.

Technology buyers are rarely experts, and choice can be overwhelming when faced with a product list page of hundreds of search results. Which is where extra help in the form of previous customers’ behavior and feedback, can simplify and demystify your customers’ shopping experience, allowing them to buy the right product, the first time around, and reducing product returns, which are frustrating for both customer and retailer.

When the success of a sale depends so heavily on expert advice, social proof is a key tool that retailers can use to replicate the in-store experience online. It can be applied throughout the product sales funnel to show real-time sales, views, reviews and add-to-basket trend data for individual products, plus the latest product reviews and stock levels.

For the online customer, who’s shopping alone without a sales associate, this information helps draw their attention to products that have been popular with others, narrowing down their choices, helping them to make a shortlist and to consolidate why they should buy.  Especially useful also for those that are gifting items – where knowing what’s hot, what’s trending is particularly useful.

5. Provide expert help using the power of the crowd

It’s not just tech sales that can benefit from expert help. Parents want knowledgeable store staff, efficiency, convenience and product information whatever they are shopping for. However, online shopping behavior shows that we’re still hesitant about our eCommerce product decisions. We browse and compare prices on several sites (and in bricks and mortar stores) before buying.

Providing this ‘expert help’ online can be as simple as putting important information right in front of shoppers as part of their buying journey. For requirements like being able to check stock volumes themselves or to read third party reviews (not those of the brand), social proof messaging allows eCommerce retailers to deliver real-time product information to their customers at the point of sale.

Think how powerful adding social proof messaging would be to Target’s recently launched shoppable 360 degree dorm room would be for instance, showing trending items, stock volumes; ratings for quality – it would help guide students on what might be their first purchases in this category (Target).

It’s also a significant opportunity to differentiate your service from competitors, and drive additional footfall into bricks and mortar stores.  The information displayed in Taggstar messages is likely to be more up-to-date than the knowledge of even the smartest sales associate.

Stock volumes, sales and views are taken from real-time feeds in a site’s data layer. We’ve also made the trends that we show personal to each customer, so that returning site visitors are able to view what’s happened since their last visit.

By reading a message like “Since your last visit at 10:11, 50+ have been sold in this size’, your customers can understand precisely what’s happened since they were last looking at a product, how popular it’s proving and if stock is running low.

For time-poor parents, social proof messaging is helping to reduce the back to school shopping pain, and increasing conversions for the retailer.

To find out more about how Taggstar can increase your sales conversions, get in touch today.

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