By Michael Schulze, SVP and general manager, SAP Retail
By the time you read this, children will have been back to school for a couple weeks. Hopefully, they have all the pencils, notebooks and erasers they need. Not to mention the calculators, headphones, and in some cases, the new laptop too.
So, what did you learn this year? As a parent, you might be glad the back-to-school shopping season is over. But as a retailer, this is the perfect time to start thinking about next year and how you can apply lessons learned from the past few months to make 2014 even stronger.
Here’s something you may not have thought about: Sales data can show how successful your back-to-school season was, but the numbers don’t reveal the reasons why. To get to this “why,” we need more information — ideally, this comes right from your consumers.
Luckily, consumers give us more information than ever, much of it in the form of social commentary. So, we had our analytics team look at more than 600,000 online conversations around the 2013 back-to-school season to see if we could uncover some of this “why” information. (We used the SAP Social Media Analytics software by NetBase, which tracks consumer conversations across multiple social channels.)
Here are the major takeaways we found based on our research into this year’s social consumer commentary:
- Focus back-to-school promotions around deals and sales to reduce shopper anxiety. Social-sentiment data indicates most shoppers are largely unimpressed by general back-to-school commercials, which only serve as reminders that the season is here. However, as parents try to squeeze more items into smaller budgets, they react positively to money-saving deals.
- Time promotions to match consumer buying habits in different product categories. Families target the most expensive purchases — like electronics and apparel — before they shop for the smaller stuff, like folders and pencils. They also plan more expensive purchases around deals. So time school-supply promotions two to three weeks before the first day of class, and use the earlier days of summer to promote deals on pricier items.
- Make promotions valid online and in-store. Back-to-school shopping is still a special family activity. Unlike holiday or Cyber Monday shopping — which increasingly drive consumers online — youngsters still need to make sure their new shoes fit, and parents can buy exactly what their kids want while avoiding shipping costs.
The key insight: Social sentiment can reveal the “whys” behind sales data. We can segment data based on seasonal triggers or other events and use the findings to drive greater revenue. In addition to analyzing social sentiment after a heavy buying season, retailers can monitor sentiment in real-time during holidays, such as Halloween. With the proper analysis, you’re able to make real-time forecasting, promotion and inventory decisions based on a 360-degree view of your consumer. And, being able to react in real time offers more opportunities to attract customers to the store or website during critical buying times.
(Photo by Lyn Lomasi.)