If the back to school season continues to be an early indicator of retailers’ promotion plans for the all important fourth quarter, expect mobile and social campaigns to be driving a lot more conversations. Looking to grab their share of the more than $21 billion spent on school-aged children during the back to school season, American Eagle, Kmart, JC Penney and others tapped into the growing dependency on social networks and mobile devices.
In addition to increased promotional activity from retailers, a new Deloitte survey found that 29% of consumers plan to use their mobile phones to help them make the right choice in school items, while 38% said they will use these methods to access price information. Consumers are using social networks for various reasons — 33% want to view a retailer’s advertisement and 30% to obtain discounts, coupons and sale information.
The survey found that consumers’ recession-induced behaviors are beginning to wane as households seek to replenish certain items and worry less about the economy, Alison Paul, Vice Chairman and Deloitte’s Retail Sector Leader said in a press release. “Retailers may be encouraged that fewer consumers are planning to pare back this year, although they may find that shoppers continue to be deliberate in their purchases,” she said. “Retailers should be laser-focused on giving shoppers a reason to put back-to-school dollars into their stores.”
Consumers last year spent about $1.2 million on goods and services purchased via mobile phones and the market is expected to reach $2.1 billion by the end of this year, ABI Research Analyst Mark Beccue told The Boston Globe. With such a significant forecast, it’s no surprise that retailers are jumping on the mobile bandwagon to enhance the customer experience.
Moving with Mobile
American Eagle Outfitters just ended a back to school promotion, which offered shoppers who try on a pair of AE jeans a free smart phone offer with a new two-year service plan. The promotion allowed customers to choose from more than 40 phones from a variety of top brands including BlackBerry and Android. Every customer who signed up for the plan then received a $25 AE “Money Card,” which can be redeemed online or in stores.
AE’s promotion is well-aligned with spending forecasts. NRF’s recent survey found that teenagers and pre-teens will dish out more of their own money for apparel, supplies and accessories this year.
Sears is running an integrated marketing campaign with a mobile call to action and social engagement aspect. The retailer is looking for tween style-makers through its “Crush Your Style – The Search for America’s Top Style Crush” campaign. The program issues one style challenge every week for six weeks to find America’s top style talent, with a $50,000 family trip as the grand prize. Shoppers can enter the contest via the mobile phone, and friends can vote for the winners on their mobile phones, too. The mobile site m.crushyourstyle.com has a call-to-action asking consumers to text a different keyword each week to the short code 66746.
Kmart’s back to school campaigns focused on convenient shopping for customers. With Kmart2go, customers can shop for products via iPhone and Android apps, giving users complete access to the full list of items and categories available on Kmart.com. Kmart also communicates deals to customers by blasting out daily text messages with promotions for the back to school season.
JCPenney is displaying interactive ads on iPhone apps that allow users to view new outfit combinations and find the closest store. JCPenney’s “New Look. New Year. Who Knew!” multichannel back-to-school campaign features ads in Apple’s iAd, mobile coupons, a WAP site for teens and a new iPhone application.
Target is sending out scannable coupons that shoppers can redeem at the point of sale, while Kohl’s and Best Buy are sending text message alerts to promote special deals.
The Social Scene
While mobile promos are dominating this year’s back to school strategy for many retailers, social media is also a key component for other retailers’ back to school tactics. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is tapping to give teens “a shot at Hollywood fame.” Facebook fans can submit a photo of themselves wearing A&G jeans or leggings for the chance to win a screen test in Hollywood and audition for a movie. The Facebook community will vote for the top five hottest guys and girls.
Sears is getting more social, too, as the company supplemented its back to school campaign with a Facebook application promoting new merchandise targeted at college students. Students can use the application to decorate a virtual dorm room with products available for purchase at Sears, such as bedding, appliances and electronics. Shoppers can also share their virtual rooms with friends, allowing them to come up with new ideas.
In another socially-driven initiative, Kohl’s is tapping its Facebook fan page and giving away $500,000 to 20 lucky schools, totaling $10 million. The contest allows students to vote for their school and submit ideas about how their school should use the money.