Back To School Season With Inflation with Momentum Worldwide’s Commerce Lead

From Jennifer Olliges, SVP, Managing Director and North American Commerce Lead, Momentum Worldwide 

As we embark on the critical Back to School season for brands and retailers, it should not be lost on us how important and emotional this time of year is for our shoppers … especially this year. With inflation on the rise shoppers are having to spend more—in fact, an average $661* per student. So how do brands and retailers capture these shopper dollars? 

Back-to-school shoppers are naturally very focused on their children and their needs. They are looking for ways to ensure their confidence and build their mental wellbeing while focusing on preserving the environment and thinking about sustainability. Parents are determined to make this a reality, even under economic pressure, but the biggest challenge is how. How do brands and retailers build trust and position themselves accordingly? 

One example that appears to answer all their needs is Walmart’s AR “View in your Space” tool to help college students understand how furniture will look or fit in their dorm rooms. Taking a que from furniture stores, where the lack of showrooms has diminished viewing capabilities but not hurt sales because shoppers are finding new ways to view items in their spaces, and they are learning to adjust and embrace this new way of shopping. It not only engages the virtual technologies that our shoppers are enjoying, but it also builds credibility for the brands with which they are interacting. 

As inflation impacts our shoppers’ wallets, it also impacts their decision-making around what brands to choose. Brand loyalty is potentially at risk for a couple of reasons: price and inventory. Consumers are increasingly looking for incentives. 42% are shopping for sales more often, up from 36% last year.* 

Many retailers have taken a different approach this year to combat these challenges. For example, additional retailers have jumped on Amazon Prime Days, providing added value and offers to their shoppers. Not only did Target start their Deal Days a day earlier than Amazon, but they also extended their Teacher Prep Event, which offers a 15% discount on school supplies and other items, by six weeks. Ecommerce company Zulily took a different approach, offering weekly discounts through the end of August to boost appeal. Each is trying to find their unique place in the market. While the online deals are all over the place luring shoppers, we should not forget about in-store. With consumers venturing back into stores, brands and retailers need to capitalize on this traffic by providing offers and showcasing shopper solutions—true shopper solutions that speak to the shoppers! Don’t do in-store just to do in-store; brands should make the connection to all of the digital work they are doing. As parents and children are shopping together, connect the dots and make it fun. Think interactive engagement at the shelf or on-pack, or QR codes to provide more information.   

Bottom line, back-to-school shopping should NOT feel like a daunting, stressful chore; it should be an emotional and fun experience for parents and children. These shoppers are wanting to fulfill a need yet make their children feel happy and confident as they start the new school year. So in order to win this critical occasion, you must provide a meaningful, engaging solution for all. 

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Resources: *Statista 

A passionate marketing executive with over 20 years experience, Jennifer transforms insights into action for an array of brands. Her integrated skill sets span the commerce ecosystem from ecommerce, advertising and consumer promotions to brand experiences, shopper/customer marketing and product launches. A focused business leader and strategic thinker who understands both client and consumer needs. Jennifer is a collaborative client partner, who has worked with companies including Abbvie, Chobani, Coca-Cola, Energizer, Spectrum Brands, Constellation Brands, J.M. Smucker Co. and The Schwan Food Co. Jennifer has featured in Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing for 8 consecutive years and is a regular judge at the Effies Award Show. 

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