Back-to-school spending is expected to reach a record breaking $83.6 billion this year, surpassing previous figures of $75.8 billion in 2016.
These recent projections from the National Retail Federation include spending for both college and schools – the expected rise of $7.8 billion is due to greater confidence in the state of the economy. On average, parents are anticipated to spend $238.89 on clothing, $204.33 on electronics, $130.38 on shoes, and $114.12 on school supplies.
Trends reveal back-to-school shopping searches begin as early as two months before the school year starts. What’s more, 46% of back-to-school shoppers and 44% of back-to-college shoppers will buy supplies online.
The expected rush of school supply purchases over the coming weeks is a big eye opener for retailers in this space. As demand soars, retailers must ensure they have the right measures in place to meet demand and customer expectations.
Preparation is key, but there is still time to make a difference. Here’s what you should be doing right now to streamline operations for one of the busiest times of the year.
Check your product availability
If you’re not prepared for demand, you could find yourself turning away customers because you don’t have sufficient stock available. Even one unavailable item could cost you the entire sale of additional items from one customer. They could prefer to make one bulk purchase from a single store rather than shop around, making multiple purchases.
Make a point of checking your product quantities regularly, allowing you to keep on top of contacting suppliers and ordering additional stock.
Offer free standard shipping
With promotions and back-to-school deals rife across the internet, consumers have come to expect free delivery as part of the package. In fact, a massive 91% of online shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping.
As shoppers actively seek out free delivery options from online stores, retailers must use these customer expectations as the basis for their shipping strategies.
The starting point for making free delivery feasible for your business is to consider your carrier options and compare rates to select the lowest prices. You also have to consider how you are pricing your items--making sure they are competitive, but also have enough margin built in to help cover these extra shipping expenses.
Buy online/pick up in-store options
For those shopping online this year, 54% will expect to buy online and pick up in-store. If retailers want to compete and coincide with consumer habits, they must consider a website facility that allows this action to happen.
As over half of back-to-school shoppers choose to pick up in store, this is also a good money saving option to consider as you can consolidate shipments into palettes for stores, rather than shipping individual items. Retailers should focus their efforts on perfecting their marketing strategies to draw the customer to the website initially.
Make customer service a priority
With greater demand leading up to the new school year, this will likely result in more sales for your business. And with increased sales, you need to increase your ability to handle inquiries, packing, returns, complaints, etc.
You should assess your staffing levels to ensure you’re able to handle increased demand, and evaluate the entire customer journey to eliminate barriers to purchase.
Bear in mind, your customers don’t care if you’re busier during the back-to-school period. They’ll still expect a superior level of customer service.
If you put the right measures in place and prepare your business for the expected influx, you’ll ensure happy customers and set yourself up for success. This is without causing headaches due to things like low stock, increased shipping costs, or the inability to pick up locally, despite having a brick and mortar store. These adjustments can make a big difference for your business!
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