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Savvy BTS shoppers using smartphones, social networks to score deals


NEW YORK — Inflation-related concerns will prompt back-to-school shoppers to utilize certain shopping tactics, including smartphone and social network use, to save this year.

According to a back-to-school survey conducted by Deloitte, 86% of households reported that they expect to spend the same or more on back-to-school items this year, while 7-out-of-10 respondents cited higher food prices (72%) and higher energy prices (70%) as reasons they may scale back spending this season, followed by about half (51%) who credit the lack of improvement in the job market to their anticipated restricted spending. Among those surveyed, 65% said that low prices are the most important retailer attribute when it comes to back-to-school shopping.

In terms of how shoppers will plan on saving big this year, nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents that own Web-enabled smartphones plan to use them for back-to-school shopping, while 3-out-of-5 (61%) will use them to get price information. Additionally, more than 2-out-of-5 (43%) will download discounts, coupons or sale information to their smartphones.

Deloitte also found that social networks will play a greater role in back-to-school shopping this year, with 35% of parents planning to use social networking sites to assist in their back-to-school shopping, up from 29% last year. Among these respondents, nearly 7-out-of-10 (69%) plan to utilize social networks to find out about promotions, while 44% plan to visit social networking sites to browse products and 28% will log on to read reviews and recommendations.

“Retailers need to be prepared for a consumer who is sensitive to prices, especially with the pinch households are feeling from higher gas and energy costs this summer,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and Deloitte’s retail and distribution sector leader. “Retailers should monitor customers’ reactions closely to recognize where they are flexible, and where promotions are necessary to drive traffic and generate purchases of higher margin products in the store.”

Ways that parents are planning on saving even more money include only buying essentials, reuse last year's items and consolidating trips to save gas (55%, 26% and 28%, respectively).

“Price-conscious and/or time-constrained, consumers are navigating virtual and physical storefronts to get the information they want quickly and easily,” Paul said. “Retailers need to respond with an integrated experience. In short, they must unite the store with their online and mobile channels to enable consumers to easily access product availability, promotions and information. Retailers can also increase personalization through digital touch points. One example of this is to create targeted mobile advertisements that engage parents and students with advice and merchandise specifically relevant to their shopping preferences to help retailers increase engagement, conversion and loyalty this season.”

Some consumers earning higher incomes, however, show more confidence in their own finances and are less inclined to alter their back to school shopping this season: 82% among respondents earning $100,000 or more said their financial situation is the same or better than last year, compared with two-thirds 66% of respondents earning less than $100,000.

The Deloitte survey was conducted between July 5 and July 11 and polled 1,000 parents of school-aged children in grades kindergarten through 12.

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