back-to-school 2021: how to prepare for a successful retail season

Back-to-School 2021: How to Prepare for a Successful Retail Season

We’ve never been more excited about a back-to-school retail season. After 2020’s constant back and forth of students going into school, or not, we’re thrilled that classrooms are able to safely open back up. It’s hard to tell who’s more excited: students or parents. But regardless of who’s more anxious to get out of the house, one thing is for sure: this will be a back-to-school season like no other.

But after a year of uncertain shopping patterns and few kids physically present in schools, what can brands and retailers expect? How can they prepare to make this season as successful as possible?

What Retail Trends Can We Expect out of Back to School in 2021?

The forecast is positive. NRF reports that parents with school age children will spend an average of $789.94 family, nearly $100 more than in 2020. On a macro level, total back to school spending is expected to be at an all-time high of $33.9 billion.

But what are these dollars being spent on? In high school and younger:

  • 95% of consumers will be purchasing new school supplies
  • 93% of consumers are refreshing their wardrobe
  • 90% are looking for new shoes
  • And 63% are expecting to buy new electronics

Driving these stats are new shopping trends, partly changed by the pandemic and partly by the increased use of social media in teens. Omnichannel shopping will be the big winner this year and it’s not hard to see why. For nearly two years, kids have been stuck at home, figuring out who they are in this new world, and now they’re ready to show off their fresh kicks and “serve lewks.” Parents on the other hand are just happy to have a return to normalcy and are ready to update worn-out clothing and tired colored pencils.

Even though online shopping is more popular than ever, people are ready to participate in “real life” again, which should bring a breath of fresh air to brick-and-mortar retailers.

For brands selling in physical locations, especially big-box retailers now’s the time to put the final polishing touches on your back-to-school strategies. Here are three tips to make sure your brand is capitalizing on the increased foot traffic.

Tip 1: Embrace In-Store Marketing

Brands can take advantage of the return to brick-and-mortar locations by launching in-store promotional campaigns. This will capture eyeballs of eager shoppers and help to drive purchases. If you’re like us, it can be a little overwhelming coming back into fully packed stores, so any way you can get your brand to stand out is going to be a winning strategy in this strange year.

Here are a few ideas for in-store marketing:

  • Endcaps and Sidecap Displays: Use attention-grabbing displays to attract shoppers. Think colorful, clear messaging, and even interactive to take full advantage of these prime locations.
  • Signage: If a full display is not in the cards this year, embrace signage. In the store’s aisles, on the windows, and whatever other location you’re able to secure. Signs should be visually appealing and direct shoppers to purchase your product on the shelves.
  • Instant Redeemable Coupons (IRCs): Don’t forget about marketing directly on your products. Place on-item signage, like IRCs to encourage more sales. This is especially useful this year when people are still keeping an eye on their budgets.
  • Bundles: Get creative with your back-to-school inventory. Can you create a bundle of products? People love to feel like they’re getting a good deal and bundles offer that as well as convenience.

Tip 2: Use Digital Channels to Drive Foot Traffic

For years, there’s been chatter about omnichannel shopping and using digital channels to drive in-store traffic. The question isn’t whether it’s important but rather, how?

Here are three tips to increase in-store sales, digitally:

  1.  Make it easy for web visitors to find your physical inventory: On your website, include maps, transportation information, and compelling photography. This will make people understand what they have to gain by visiting your products in-store and make it easy for them to get there.
  2.  Pay attention to SEO: Identify where your items sell and include local SEO campaigns to drive nearby foot traffic. As of right now, local SEO is still an underrated strategy but highly effective.
  3.  Buy online, pick up in store: Capture dollars earlier by promoting any opportunities to buy online and pick up later in the store. Bonus points if you can include exclusive coupons that are only redeemable in the store.

Tip 3: Tighten Up In-Store Execution

What happens if you’ve driven the foot traffic to the store, customers are ready to buy from you, but then they can’t find your product? Not only is that sale lost but now you have an unhappy customer.

Here are a few ways you can make sure your in-store execution is in tip-top shape:

  • Perform frequent audits: Use a trusted 3rd party merchandiser to keep inventory counts accurate, shelves full, and in-store marketing materials in place.
  • Maintain your planograms: Don’t just set it and leave it. Make sure that your planogram is getting frequent stocking and organizing attention during busy traffic times to raise sales by an average of 6%.
  • Stay informed:Keep your finger on the pulse of in-store reality with Snap Audits.  These highly effective data gathering store visits provide a store level view, providing macro actionable insights.

One of the best ways to make sure your products are flying off the shelves is by partnering with an expert retail merchandising firm. Check out our list of 7 questions to ask retail merchandising agencies to make sure you’re finding the right one for you.

Contact us today to discover how we can help this back-to-school season be your best yet.