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TechBytes: Three tips to survive last-minute back-to-school frenzy

School may be back in session in some parts of the country, but the back-to-school shopping frenzy is far from over. In fact, 77% of parents said they planned to wait at least three weeks before school begins to start shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. (On the East Coast, school doesn’t start until after Labor Day.)

As retailers eye their share of what NRF estimates will be $82.8 billion in back-to-school sales, they should make sure their store shelves are stocked, last-minute deals are in place, and fulfillment options are optimized to attract last-minute shoppers. Stores that can’t keep pace will only drive shoppers into the arms of competitors — and risk not having them return later.

Here are three tips to attract last-minute back-to-school customers— and bring them back for future visits:
•Boost marketing efforts with location-based data. With the back-to-school season looming, location intelligence data can help brick-and-mortar retailers strategize and execute more efficient, better performing market campaigns that drive in-store visits. By leveraging a mobile device’s location, retailers have a new tool to deliver personalized, real-time content about marketing campaigns and promotions.

Meanwhile, companies can use consumers’ location patterns to map the offline consumer journey, and gain more actionable insights on consumer behavior, purchase intent and brand affinity.

•Tighten inventory management cross-channel. Retailers kicked off the back-to-school season in late June with well-stocked store shelves — both physical and virtual — that featured the hottest apparel, school supplies, electronics and dorm essentials. Fast-forward two months, and last-minute customers are playing beat the clock to grab the same back-to-school essentials. And they expect to find merchandise in-stock, and available for pickup or delivery.

During this zero hour, retailers need to ensure integrated inventory management systems can provide information about merchandise availability at store-level, as well as across digital channels. They also must share accurate order status updates with customers, ensuring them that they will have all the supplies on their list.

•Offer more fulfillment options. With the first day commencing in mere weeks, time is of the essence. That means only enabling customers to make a purchase in-store or shop online and have items delivered to their home won’t cut it. Instead, customers will opt to shop with retailers that offer multiple fulfillment options that will enable them to get their purchases faster, and when they are ready to receive them.

These include more buy-online-pickup-in-store programs, ship-from-store services, even curbside order pickup programs. For example, Walmart is making everything available for buy-online-pickup-in-store, and school staples are also eligible for the company’s Online Grocery Pickup shopping service. Further, a majority of back-to-class items are also available for free two-day shipping on orders over $35 without a membership fee.
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