Back-to-school shopping affected by shifting landscape
MONTREAL, Aug.19 /CNW/ - As Canada's back-to-school shopping season
reaches full gear, many retailers find getting in touch with consumers,
especially parents with limited shopping time, a rapidly changing
mission. Now, retailers must rethink how they communicate, connect and
sell to their customers.
"The Canadian economy is recovering and most retailers are in relatively
good financial shape. However, retailers still face skittish consumers
who are expecting retailers to deliver value — every day," says Daniel
Baer, Ernst & Young's Canadian retail and wholesale industry leader.
"Recent economic news, including consumer confidence and unemployment
rates, will only serve to sharpen consumers' resistance to spend."
Already, consumers are delaying buying decisions, hoping for prices to
fall. Based on current trends, 2010 back-to-school sales are expected to
increase approximately 4% to 5% — keeping in mind, 2009 sales results
were comparatively weak compared to prior years.
"Retailers can take some comfort that children's items are usually the
last area parents cut," says Baer.
The economy is not the only factor affecting retailers' growth and
consumer spending. Consumers no longer live to shop, but rather they
shop to live. They're looking for more than the convenience factor; they
expect their input and opinions to be heard.
Retailers can remain ahead of the competition by taking advantage of the
web, the fastest-growing retail channel, and the emerging mobile
application platform. In order for retailers to continue building
customer relationships and keep up to date with the ever-changing
shopping landscape, they should:
Increase investments in the mobile platform: Mobile
commerce, or m-commerce, is the newest channel to connect with
shoppers. New applications offer mobile updates and promotions, allow
product research, improve consumer relations and gain brand loyalty in
the long run.
Re-think the website: Websites are becoming the
number-one shopping arena, and are often even more profitable than
physical stores. Purchasing needs to be seamless and transparent to
the consumer, regardless of the channel — consumers are buying from a
brand, not a channel.
Embrace social media: Social media allows for
real-time customer feedback. Features like Facebook's "like" button or
Twitter's "retweet" spread opinions instantaneously. Social media not
only increases sales, but drives traffic to company websites raising
brand recognition, which is good for the bottom line.
Build customer intelligence: Understanding
customer buying trends is essential when building short- and long-term
plans for the sales and product mix. Retailers who offer branded
credit cards and loyalty programs often gather more important customer
information and brand build. Consumers respond positively to and are
looking for targeted email based on their individual shopping patterns.
"Consumers go online to find the best deals and selection, coupons and
product information. This is especially true during the back-to-school
season," says Baer. "Television has taken a back seat to the internet
and mobile applications. Retailers who embrace these new platforms today
will be tomorrow's winners."
To continue success in the midst of change, retailers must go beyond
traditional shopping methods and adapt to emerging trends and technology
dominating the buying landscape.
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SOURCE EY (Ernst & Young)
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