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Secure customer loyalty this back-to-school season

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We’ve arrived at a time of year that would usually be filled with summer holiday excitement and the promise of long, lazy days. 

But, that delight is on hold as students have experienced disruption since March. The pandemic has forced schools to close their physical doors with no end date in sight. As a result, casting uncertainty over what is usually a reliable shopping season. 

Despite the unpredictability, a Deloitte back-to-school survey found that consumers are likely to spend $529 this season, a similar amount seen from last year. Instead, COVID-19 is altering how, what and where consumers plan to shop for the new school year. 

Digital engagement is up. In life after lockdown, 47% of consumers would rather shop with a retailer that offers an option to buy online and return to store. 

While the overall spending remains unchanged compared to last year, category purchases might shift to reflect the current climate. 40% of parents said they are planning to buy fewer traditional back-to-school supplies this year. Instead, they’ll invest in digital resources to supplement their children’s education. 

On top of that, 63% of consumers say they are thinking differently about back-to-school spending and plan to put fewer dollars towards frivolous purchases and more toward new essentials (for example, hygiene products). 

97% said they would spend more on hand sanitizer and 71% said they would be spending on masks.

With the market in turbulence, it’s important to secure customers who remain engaged and loyal to your business long-term. 

Here are our tips on how to attract and retain customers over the back-to-school spending peak.

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Demand remains high: provide value without slashing prices

While there’s uncertainty around how schools will reopen, the demand for back-to-school items remains high. More than three-quarters of parents (77%) and 85% of kids expect back to school to be the same or bigger than last year.

As more households reign in their spending, consumers will be expecting deals and discounts on back-to-school products.

To serve this audience and secure their loyalty, make your promotions well-timed and relevant to families on a budget.

If you’re carrying excess out-of-season stock, bundle up these items in a promotion for investment pieces for next season. Also shine a spotlight on non-iron, stain or scuff resistant pieces that help parents who are looking for long-lasting items. 

Instead of slashing prices in dramatic discounts, leverage a loyalty program to reward shoppers with points on purchases. If customers have the chance to build up points, they are more likely to return in the future. When it comes to purchasing school items, there is the opportunity for guaranteed repeat customers as children move up through the school years and parents must make the annual fall investment.

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Be the talk of the town: Encourage referrals and word-of-mouth marketing

The back-to-school season is also the ideal time to strengthen your referral marketing. 

Parents often have a lot of other friends who are parents. Incentivize your customers to make referrals to those friends who are your ideal target audience. Not only does your business get cost-effective marketing, but your customers get points for referring. Meanwhile, the referred person gets a recommendation from a trusted source and often a discount from the brand to boot. 

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Make online shopping a breeze: Level up your UX

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a dramatic increase in online shopping since lockdowns have been imposed. In fact, over 85,000 businesses launched online in the UK since March. The highest number of new ecommerce offerings ever recorded over a four-month period. On top of that, Bazaarvoice found that 41% of shoppers now shop online for items they would normally buy in-store.

It’s pivotal for brands to provide a positive, seamless online experience to succeed at a time when more and more customers are shopping online. 

As the back-to-school shopping peak hits this fall, make it easy for your customers to navigate your online store. Creating a personalized shopping experience is key to making customers feel valued and to increase loyalty. They’re not satisfied with a “one size fits all” approach and prefer experiences that are tailored. Adobe also found that 38% of online shoppers will leave a website if they find the design unattractive.

Make the most of the back-to-school boom and build a loyalty program page to excite new customers. From gifts to product recommendations, your loyalty program provides a unique opportunity to deliver personalized interactions and customized content that encourages shoppers to choose you over others.

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What the new school year means for loyalty

While demand remains strong in the back-to-school category, priorities have shifted. 

The way customers want to shop this year has moved into the digital space. 

Make the move online enjoyable and easy for your customers by enriching your UX. Give customers more than just competitive prices by making your promotions are well-timed and relevant to families on a budget. Secure the trust of customers now in this turbulent period and they’ll be loyal to you long-term. 

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About the author

Mollie Woolnough-Rai

Mollie is a Senior Content Marketing Executive at LoyaltyLion. After graduating from UCL in 2016, she has worked both in-house and at marketing agencies providing expertise in content for both B2B and B2C clients. At LoyaltyLion, Mollie manages our content, making sure our readers get the best quality resources about customer loyalty and retention.

This article originally appeared in the LoyaltyLion blog and has been published here with permission.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. In the early days of online commerce, he achieved Power Seller status at eBay, which then propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens, and eyewear retailer. After a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus, where he is a Strategic Advisor helping brands continue to grow and scale with the Shopify Commerce Platform.

To maintain a competitive edge and life of learning mantra, Steve also hosts and produces a top-rated weekly podcast show, eCommerce Fastlane, where he interviews Shopify partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands build and scale lifetime customer loyalty.