Ah the world of back to school (BTS) shopping. In the great big world of retail, BTS is the second biggest cash cow of the year. Retailers pull out all the stops, run major promotional campaigns, and look for ways to weave themselves into the minds and wallets of customers. So, onwards to BTS 2010. A time when Back to School now means "Back to Campus" (BAC). When hauls are the new marketing brainwave, and social networking becomes the new medium for snaring shoppers.
From BTS to BAC
Back to School campaigns have often been focused on the K to 12 marketplace. But, as campus retailers know, there is a huge market in the "Back to Campus" crowd. Mainline retailers are waking up to this fact, inspired by estimates showing that the Campus crowd will spend twice as much (45.8 Billion) than the K to 12 crew (21.4 Billion).
The National Retail Federation (NRF) has a great article on the campus trend, and points out a few interesting facts. They mention that Freshman don't seem to be the buyers this year, suggesting that they may be deferring purchases right now. The upside is a focus on male shoppers. Dads will spend more on their children this year, while Mothers are a little more economically cautious, planning to spend 25% less than their their male counterpoint.
Following this gender study, College guys are another hot buying group this year. And, it's not just electronics they are buying. College guys plan to spend more than ever on personal care, clothing and dorm decor.
Campus retailers can read the full article at the NRF website, and consider how they can hook in to this male campus shopper trend before the big boy retailers do.
I Haul, You Haul, We all Haul.
Retailers seem to have embraced "Hauls" as the next great marketing trend. Hauls are videos of shoppers showing off their finds at the local mall. We talked about this trend a few months back, and it appears to be the latest craze for teenage girls with a web cam. Smelling a great promotional idea, retailers are now actively encouraging and promoting hauls of their products as a BTS promotional campaign. J.C. Penny is using hauls as a major marketing campaign this summer, paying popular "haulers" to raid their stores and post videos of their finds. American Eagle is operating a similar campaign, and fashion retailer Forever 21 is in talks to develop a marketing strategy around hauling.
The big trend this year. Will it last? Experts say right now it's working, but with every trend, as soon as retailers start paying (and manipulating) the hauls, viewer cynicism increases. From the campus retail side, I still think there is some value in pursuing this with interested students. Posting hauls of their finds from the campus stores on YouTube can't do any harm right now. It just might lead to a few new sales.
Social Retail Networking.
Retailers were one of the first to grasp the importance of social networking to drive sales, predominately on Twitter and Facebook. Results have been mixed, and there is a fair bit of consumer push back on too much marketing through social networking sites. Still for this BTS season, retailers are focusing attention on this medium.
Sears and Kmart have created "Campus 2010" on Facebook, allowing incoming freshmen to connect with there new roommates and create their dorm room decor online using Sears and Kmart products. The application and portal is a nifty idea, allowing using to virtually see their dorm room made up, and to create wish lists of products they want for unsuspecting parents.
It's cool technology, a clever idea, and a great way to build brand loyalty. I still think the application falls short, simply because of the Sears and Kmart brand. Why can't Campus retailers look at this as a new marketing strategy? Not for 2010, but for 2011? Imagine partnering with some key merchandise suppliers, grabbing some innovative students to develop the application, and launch in the spring of 2011? Remember, brand loyalty is still high for college bookstores, and incoming freshman are looking for a trusted source.
Happy BTC 2010!