The back-to-school shopping season has been an extremely important business period for decades in the US. Can you even remember a time when the anticipation of heading back into the classroom didn’t get people hustling for supplies or books, or simply using the whole experience as a convenient reason to spruce up their wardrobe?
The total spend of the back-to-school shopping season touched $75.8 billion last year, increasing 11.5% from $68 billion the year prior. It’s not just consumers that get in on the action – nearly every retailer and brand in the country wants a piece of the back-to-school shopping pie. One key way they can attract shoppers is through loyalty rewards programs. However, it can be argued that most brands are failing to make the most of their loyalty tactics and initiatives. So as brands are hoping to capitalize on the annual frenzy of buying new clothes, office supplies, and electronics, what steps can they take year in and out to ensure that their efforts actually deliver results? Here are two fundamental steps to add to your checklist when you’re considering your back-to-school marketing agendas.
Step 1: Rethink Loyalty Rewards
Back-to-school (BTS) loyalty programs look to drive repeat annual business. With so much competition amongst brands, loyalty programs make a lot of sense; if you sell the same basic product as someone else, you need to give consumers a reason to see beyond the superficial aspects of this product and start valuing the core characteristics of your brand. Rewards and loyalty schemes are an efficient and valuable way to give back to consumers and inspire them to continue buying. The research supports this idea: 85% of back-to-school shoppers look forward to returning to the same stores yearly. However, 91% would shop elsewhere if a store offered a promotion or reward. 66% would sign up for retailer loyalty programs during back-to-school shopping if offered a discount at the checkout. 72% of customers have loyalty program memberships at 1 to 5 of their favorite retailers.
One surprising thing to note about this trend: customers are showing their preference towards value-add rewards and are steering clear of discounts. Traditional discount incentives, such as coupons, are losing effectiveness – in its corresponding Shopper Behavior Study, Inmar found that last year, 89% of shoppers reported that they used a coupon, down from 92% in the year prior – but only 42% said they “usually or always” use coupons
Step 2: Use Technology to Create Efficiency and Scale
Let’s be honest – loyal customers are great, but the cost of a full-scale loyalty or rewards program can get out of hand. Affecting packaging is a huge cost, especially for seasonal activations, where the same type of offer may not be available to consumers year-round. These considerations are especially critical for CPG manufacturers, who simply don’t have easy access to POS purchase validation systems. However, new technologies have recently overlapped with consumers own behaviors to create solutions that are oriented around cost savings, efficiency, and scalability. When brands harness the power of smartphone technology, tech solutions like receipt processing come to light as the ideal way to execute seasonal programs. Consumers love engaging with mobile devices, and brands can deliver programs to any retailer quickly and efficiently, with the added bonus of being able to collect data that would not have been otherwise accessible.
In a recently executed initiative for the 2017 BTS season, Snipp worked with Scotties to create an exciting back-to-school music rewards program. Scotties was faced with the account-specific challenge of driving sales with a Walmart exclusive program that was active during the back-to-school period. In an effort to keep the BTS demographic engaged, develop associations with BTS themes, and ultimately drive sales, consumers were given a download code to redeem music from a catalog of millions of songs, once they purchased qualifying Scotties products at Walmart and submitted their receipt to prove purchase.
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The reality is that it takes a lot more than two steps to construct a program that truly resonates. However, if you use these two steps as pillars to support the entire ecosystem of your loyalty and promotions marketing, you’ll find that the rest of the work falls easily into place. Technology and rewards have been evolving at an increasingly rapid pace – don’t let this progress outpace your own planning! In fact, we’d argue that keeping up with these trends is the true “step one” that you should be adhering to any time you’re considering a marketing strategy.