The back-to-school season is second only to the holiday shopping season when it comes to retail sales. How can your ecommerce business profit from back-to-school this year?
Although spending is projected to be down slightly from last year, there is still money to be made. The average family with K-12 children still plans to spend $630 on apparel, electronics and accessories for the school year, according to the 2015 NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics Back-to-School Spending Survey. The average college student or college student family will spend $899.
The good news for small business owners hoping to capitalize on back-to-school is that three in 10 back-to-school shoppers are waiting until a week or two before school starts to shop, up from 25 percent last year. That means you still have time to get your battle plan in order and capture those last-minute customers.
The hottest part of the back-to-school market is college students. The percentage who will be living in dorms or college housing has risen substantially compared to last year. More than 31 percent will live in dorms and 21 percent in college housing. That’s a huge market of college kids eager to decorate their new digs.
Going beyond the basics, today’s college students crave personalization and style in their dwellings. This year spending on matching bed sets, curtains, bath linens and other home goods is projected to top any previous year. Half college shoppers will buy dorm or apartment furnishings, spending an average of $126.30–up 30 percent from $96.70 last year and the most since 2007.
How can you capture your share of back-to-school and college customers? Try these tips.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. More than 75 percent of college students own smartphones, while over half own tablets, and they’re planning to research and even buy on those mobile devices.
- Offer free shipping. Nine out of 10 back-to-college shoppers say they’ll take advantage of it. Set a reasonable purchase level for free shipping to ensure you don’t lose money on the deal.
- Be flexible. Even though free shipping is a huge deal, some 17 percent of shoppers say they want expedited shipping options. You never know when parents will be in a rush for something—and when they are, they’re willing to pay a little extra.
- Provide pickup options. If you have both an ecommerce site and a retail store, know that nearly half (48.4 percent) of shoppers say they plan to take advantage of websites’ “buy online, pick up in store” or “ship to store” options.
- Know the trends. K-12 students have a major influence on what their parents buy for back-to-school, with teens wielding proportionately more influence (and even spending some of their own money). That means it’s important for your apparel and accessories to appeal not only to Mom or Dad, but also to Junior.
- Stay stocked. Back-to-school and college shopping doesn’t end when school starts. Once in school, kids check out what their friends are wearing and buy additional clothing, apparel and accessories to stay in style. Be prepared so you don’t run out of stock in the month or so after school starts.
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Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.