Back-to-School: Omnichannel Experiences Help You Ace It

back-to-school stack of books feature

Back-to-school shoppers will respond to a consistent experience across channels (credit: Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash)

Today, consumers shop in multiple channels, and back-to-school is no exception. Nearly 100% shop online at major retailer ecommerce sites and marketplaces. Over 90% use retailer or marketplace apps. Almost 80% visit brand-operated ecommerce shops directly, and 95% shop in store. Brands face a daunting challenge to stand out in those spaces.

Because omnichannel consumer experiences drive back-to-school shopping behaviors, brands must champion consistency across all retailers carrying their products. The effort pays off, however, increasing the likelihood that consumers will trust a brand. After all, we found 81% of consumers expect a similar content experience with a brand’s products wherever they interact with or encounter it. Of those shoppers, 36% visit four or more websites before checking out, and 56% review at least four products before deciding.

According to Vibenomics’ Back-to-School Report, consumers doing back-to-school shopping are more likely to gravitate toward a specific brand or product when influenced by the following factors:

  • In-store promotion (76%)
  • Sale/coupon (59%)
  • Social media ad (34%)
  • In-store digital display ad (27%)
  • In-store audio ad (22%)
  • Retailer mobile app recs (15%)

Brands must focus on an omnichannel strategy that delivers a consistent customer experience, anticipates customer needs and addresses concerns. This approach drives conversions, reduces returns, grows loyalty and increases profits. Here are a few strategies brands can use to hit the right notes with consumers wherever they shop.

Product Content Orchestration

Product content orchestration synchronizes people, product assets and systems needed for successful omnichannel selling. It’s a valuable strategy any time, especially during back-to-school season when shoppers search for the best deals.

Stores with a robust online presence can drive in store and online customer purchasing by blending and leveraging item locators, predictive analytics, product bundling and availability.

So why should stores fine tune their product orchestration now? Because 93% of consumers shop for children’s school supplies at big-box stores like Target and Walmart. Over 40% source supplies from brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Back-to-college and back-to-school shopping rank among the top consumer shopping events in the U.S., with the National Retail Federation forecasting records this year. The average spend per person was almost $700 in 2019 per Statista, and over $860 in 2022. Considering that the average family will spend nearly $900 on school supplies this year, brands can’t afford to leave that much revenue on the table.

A content orchestration platform is the most effective way for brands to curate, distribute and manage content across all their channels. The magic of product content management combines marketing, product and technical data in one place.

The most robust platforms include a digital asset management system and can connect with other systems such as a PIM. These platforms facilitate accuracy and improve efficiency by automating the flow of updates across all channels and downstream systems according to channel-specific criteria or rules.

Weaving Omnichannel Strategy Elements Together

Once you have a product content management platform, you can build a robust omnichannel retail strategy by leveraging the following elements.

Product bundling

Grouping and selling multiple items together — sometimes at a discount— benefits brands and customers. Retailers see higher customer retention, capitalize on opportunities to clear excess inventory and target seasonality. Product bundling lets you offer discounts, increasing customer loyalty and the bundles’ appeal while influencing customers to purchase adjacent products.

For example, a laptop bundle might include a wireless mouse, adapter and headphones. Another shopper clicks and sees a bundle including the notebook, folders, pens and highlighters.

Brands should ensure their ecommerce partners utilize bundling and recommendation technologies that accurately represent their assortments and offer relevant, compatible bundles.

With 57% of consumers saying that bundling helps them find compatible accessories and 54% reporting that bundling helps them find new brands, per our data, this strategy is a win.

Predictive analytics

This valuable tool uses past data and trends plus real-time data, statistical algorithms and machine learning to analyze customers’ past and current behavior and predict future actions. This data helps forecast demand, including what products will be most popular, to help you stores prepare inventory and market to audiences open to promotional content.

These analytics help brands identify and introduce potential customers to products they might use in the future, creating customer lifetime value. For example, a brand might follow a consumer from the birth of their child to the start of pre-K and recommend products for the transition. Other benefits include helping forecast customer churn, increase operational efficiency, optimize campaigns and segment leads.

Predicting products most likely to trend in back-to-school helps you save money, manage inventory more effectively and increase sales. Using data to determine in-demand products streamlines production and purchase decisions on which items to stock and where.

Product availability and locator

Most people have limited time to shop, so they want quick, easy access via a smartphone or app to see if an item is in stock before heading to the store. This option creates a seamless omnichannel experience and generates valuable customer behavior insights. This year, 42% of consumers plan to shop in store for school supplies, per Vibenomics, and 41% will shop in store and online.

Proactive, real-time product availability monitoring via ML helps you identify possible future stockouts, elevate operational efficiency and optimize inventory management to improve product availability.

Item locators empower customers to zero in on the item they want immediately. Locators also increase brick-and-mortar stores’ efficiency, elevating their value proposition and the brand’s competitive edge. A locator could encourage customers to explore other products and return to the brand website for product, stock or location updates.

Consistent Messaging is Vital

Consumers no longer interact with brands in one place but view content across many channels. They regularly pull out their smartphones (49% of the time, we found!) to look up detailed info, compare prices, find item locations and read reviews. They want to understand products before they commit and feel confident in their decision.

Not having messaging consistency does you a disservice since back-to-school consumers seek information about brand and reputation, product functionality and features, price and value, and quality and reliability.

To succeed in back-to-school, champion and implement a consistent omnichannel strategy, meeting customers where they are. This approach shapes and drives shopper behavior, engagement and purchases.

Steve Sivitter is CEO of 1WorldSync