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Tech Bytes: Three tips to make the grade this back-to-school season


It may only be mid-June, but retailers nationwide are already eyeing their share of almost $800 billion in estimated back-to-school sales.

Store shelves — both physical and virtual — are already being stocked with this year’s hottest apparel, school supplies, electronics and dorm essentials, all in hopes of luring early bird shoppers. However, beefing up inventory isn’t enough to guarantee a successful back-to-school shopping season.

With a mere two-month window available to grab customers’ attention, retailers must improve an array of operations from poor mobile experiences to ineffective marketing messages. If they don’t, not only will brands drive shoppers into the arms of competitors, these shoppers may not return later.

The following tips can get chains back-to-school ready:

Don’t ignore the value of customer reviews. There is no doubt that savvy parents are doing their share of back-to-school research online before heading into a store. And when making purchase decisions, they are foregoing email and search engines in favor of online ratings and reviews.

In fact, 90% of shoppers said user-generated content is the top source influencing their purchase decisions, according to “Hearing the Voice of the Consumer: UCG and the Commerce Experience,” a report from TurnTo and executed by Ipsos.

Retailers that monitor what merchandise customers are talking — and reading — about online will give them insight into what is worth stocking up on. Ratings and reviews are also a good indicator of any concerns related to specific merchandise or the shopping experience, overall. Use this information to connect with customers and meet their back-to-school needs.

Adopt location-based marketing technology. While school has ended in the south, Midwest and parts of the west coast, those of us here on the east coast are limping to the finish line — and refuse to look at another lunchbox, backpack or other school supplies for at least two more months. So imagine the frustration a group of us “Mom” felt when the first back-to-school catalog arrived last week.

This is proof that retailers still rely way too heavily on mass marketing. Not only are these blanket messages ineffective in spurring impulse sales, they often fail to drive conversion, and sustain customer loyalty.

By employing location-based marketing tools, retailers merge geographic location data and regional shopping behavior to gain insight into when to effectively target shoppers. These tools will keep marketing messages on top of the shopper’s mind at the optimal time — and keep promotions out of the circular file.

Make experiences mobile-ready. As retailers prepare for more online traffic, they can’t forget how important their mobile channel will be for back-to-school shoppers. With almost 60% of page views and browsing happening through mobile devices, according to BazaarVoice, brands need to step up their mobile game.

It is time for mobile platforms to become more “guest-centric,” and drive more personalized experiences, from the way merchandise is presented to mobile promotions. Retailers also need the capacity to manage increasing traffic volume levels, support navigation and securely process mobile payments.

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