Strategies for a Successful Back-to-School Season

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and the core spring selling season is fading into the background. For many retail segments, the focus has turned to making the most of opportunities in the upcoming Back-to-School (BTS) period.

A Retail TouchPoints article – The ABCs of a Successful Back-to-School Shopping Season – calls out three key strategies retailers can implement to make their BTS season successful.

  • Focus not just on consumer needs but also wants: While BTS messaging generally focuses on practical necessities, retailers that use customer insights to offer things shoppers really want can “win the basket” and score incremental sales to multiple members of a household, not just students.
  • Invest in solutions that boost customer service and convenience: For example, Barnes & Noble Education’s “First Day Complete Program” will provide Wake Tech Community College students with all the textbooks, lab manuals and e-books they’ll need by the first day of classes.
  • Study the calendar and look to the skies: Because different regions start their school year at different times, retailers will need to carefully time promotions and ensure products are available in the appropriate regions and stores. Additionally, because the weather can affect consumers’ purchasing psychology, particularly in terms of apparel, retailers can use AI- and machine learning-powered tools to incorporate weather forecasts into inventory and merchandise allocation planning.

The final strategy highlights how proactively managing the impact of weather on consumer demand, on a market-by-market basis, can improve the customer experience and financial results.

Inna Kuznetsova, CEO of ToolsGroup, discussed the value of localization for retailers during the BTS period. “In order to preserve margins, retailers must build demand patterns down to the lowest level,” said Kuznetsova. “That means sending only what a store needs, when they need it, to prevent overstocking.”

The article points out that even if a retailer has “the best planning in the world, unforeseen events, very much including the weather, can affect BTS plans — and retailers must be ready to adjust on the fly.”

“Retailers need real-time alerts from a system that senses those internal signals as well as weather data,” said Kuznetsova. “This goes beyond inventory management to a much more comprehensive type of retail planning based on machine learning (ML) and AI. Retailers can use ML to build their cluster for each category and help place it in the right warehouse for each product.”

As partners, Planalytics and ToolsGroup provide businesses with predictive Weather-Driven Demand (WDD) analytics to stay a step ahead of weather-based sales volatility, optimize store-level inventories, and improve both sales and profit.  Learn more about WDD analytics for your business.