Research released by Google last week says that 65% of back-to-school shoppers have already researched purchases online. And, 65% will begin purchasing by mid-August.
That means that retailers have just a few weeks to introduce initiatives that help them stand apart and best serve customers.
Retailers saw record back-to-school spending in 2012, but the National Retail Federation projects that this year families with school-age children will spend roughly $54 less on average than last year. Despite shorter supply lists from schools and smaller budgets from parents, mid-July to early September still remains the second biggest season for retailers behind the holiday season, and this year total back-to-school spending (including college) is expected to reach $72.5 billion. Thirty-seven percent of families surveyed by the NRF said they will head online to comparative shop for the best deals.
We headed online as well to look at the ecommerce sites of five leading retailers to see how they’re presenting the back-to-school shopping experience. Overall there seems to be a trend among the office supply sites — OfficeMax.com, OfficeDepot.com and Staples.com — which are all promoting Buy Online Pick Up In Store initiatives. All five sites surveyed are STELLAService-rated Excellent for their customer support and shipping, delivery and returns performance.
- Target.com - With its customizable uStyler initiative, Target is aiming to catch the eye of millennials heading to college. “It’s a really important season, because if we can get this young adult millennial who is going into a new life stage, it’s a way to get a loyal guest for a lifetime,” Rick Gomez, senior VP of marketing at Target, told Adage. Online shoppers receive free shipping with a minimum $50 order.
- Walmart.com allows online shoppers to search for supplies by grade level (Preschool, K-3, 4-5, 6-8, High School). The site — which will sell 42 million boxes of crayons this season – is also providing “Home Free” shipping on uniforms, school supplies, and backpacks, and all apparel ships for just $0.97. And in its Classrooms by Walmart program, the retailer allows teachers to upload classroom supply lists, allowing parents to search the database by school, zip code or city. Once a grade and school are located, parents can add the entire list to their cart with a single click.
- OfficeMax.com - The retailer is promoting buy online, pick up in-store with a graphic overlay on product images once added to a shopping cart as well as on the home page. Shoppers receive free shipping with a minimum $50 order.
- Staples.com - Similar to Walmart.com, Staples’ website breaks online B2S browsing into grades — K-5th, Middle & High School, College & University, and Teacher’s Corner, School Administrator’s Corner. On it’s B2S pages, the retailer is also promoting same-day reserve online, pick up in store. Shoppers receive free shipping with a minimum $45 order.
- OfficeDepot.com - The retailer is hoping to appeal to the busy parent with a program where shoppers can email email@example.com with their shopping list, and within 24 hours will receive an email with a link for quick checkout. Alternatively, shoppers can buy online and have items ready for pickup within one hour for free (for most items). Shoppers have up to 48 hours to pick up up items or they are restocked and an refund is issued. Online shoppers receive free shipping with a minimum $50 order.
The complete results of the National Retail Federation’s Back to School Survey can be found here.
Previously on Happy Customer:
- For Back to School Shopping, In-Store Bests the Online Experience
- Back to School? Shop at Costco.com