By Adam Forrest, Director of Product Marketing

News over the last week has really been all about social commerce and back-to-school shopping. Here are some of the headlines that caught my eye to help inspire some new thoughts for you this week.

1. Online Back to School Shopping: 2014 Outlook and Digital Tactics to Watch

Summary: Data points to the fact that “Back to School” and “Back to College” shoppers will spend more this year than last year. And it looks like a lot of it will be conducted online, with more than 1/3 of back to school shoppers, and 45% of back to college shoppers, saying they will shop online. As for mobile, more than half of back-to-school shoppers who own a smartphone will use it to research products and compare prices, and 37 percent will redeem coupons and purchase products.

My thoughts: Along with the holiday shopping season, back-to-school is a big deal for retailers – they need to creatively engage with their customers and find new ways to capture the share of wallet. Retailers need to start planning for 2015 back to school now, so here are a few suggestions:

  • Pop-up stores – College students need a ton of stuff to get their dorm rooms ready, so having it easily accessible for them right on campus is a true differentiator.
  • Flexible fulfillment – Whether students are shopping in a physical store, at a pop-up location or online, the ability to quickly and easily get them the items they want is paramount to your success. The bottom line is that students today are of the “want it now” generation; they don’t want to wait for days for their purchase to arrive.
  • Social strategy – Students of all ages are increasingly looking to social media channels to help them decide what to buy; they’re engaging with other people to get real insights into various products and have conversations about what matters most to them. Offering insights into locations or performances where they can catch your celebrity spokespeople, or even giving tips to have a stress-free college move-in day, shows you’re in-tune with them.


2. Families Following an Omnichannel Back-to-School Shopping Path

Summary: Baynote, a provider of personalized customer experience solutions, created an infographic based on its recent back-to-school shopping survey that illustrates how families are leveraging multiple channels to take care of their shopping lists this year.

My thoughts: The traditional purchase funnel is extinct. Today, consumers engage with a brand through multiple touchpoints, which can start at a number of different locations. As a result, consumers expect the same experience – including offers and prices – to exist across channels. Retailers must also deal with the dynamic that in most cases, the target for the goods and the actual buyer are different, creating another layer of sophistication. Utilizing shared wish lists and registries are great ways for younger generations to build their shopping lists, making it easy for their parents to make the purchases for them. In these cases, it’s important to target both groups, and not only understand each of the challenges they may encounter, but also be prepared to solve those problems differently.


3. Why Facebook and Twitter Are Embracing Ecommerce

Summary: Facebook announced it was testing its new “buy” button, and a few hours later, Twitter announced its acquisition of CardSpring, a payments infrastructure company. Clearly, embracing commerce – possibly with the goal of boosting engagement – is top of mind for both social networks. Now, it’s just a matter of how it will be implemented.

My thoughts: We’ve seen the importance of social media for retailers grow as a result of the ubiquity of commerce – commerce is increasingly present in everything we do today. As I mentioned in a recent post on Facebook’s “buy” button, there is a great opportunity for retailers that leverage social integrations. But retailers need to be authentic; they can’t shout to their customers on social platforms. Instead, they should whisper to them, offering a subtle and convenient way to buy. This, combined with the new capabilities Facebook and Twitter are exploring – as just two examples of the many commerce-driven capabilities with social channels – will open the door to new engagement potential for retailers to connect with their customers.


4. Snapchat May Be Looking to Break into Mobile Payments

Summary: Snapchat recently filed two trademarks that point to a possible future for the photo-sharing app in mobile payments. One trademark suggests that software can be downloaded from a global network, and the second trademark involves the electronic transfer of money to others.

My thoughts: The article points out that this is not the first photo-sharing app, and it likely won’t be the last, so Snapchat needs to find a way to add some versatility. Perhaps taking its cue from Facebook and Twitter, looking to commerce could be a great direction for the app. It already reaches millions of engaged users daily (users were sending 700 million photos and videos per day), so a mobile commerce segue could make a lot of sense for them. If this does come to fruition, the real question will be what types of retailers will recognize and accept mobile payments through Snapchat when there are already so many other mobile commerce solutions available.


5. Chinese Ecommerce Market Exploding But Logistics Tricky

Summary: Though ecommerce continues to grow in China, getting products to customers is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Not only are there shipping restrictions, but the actual ‘last mile’ of getting the product to the customer varies dramatically. In tier-one cities, like Beijing and Guangzhou, products could arrive in a matter of hours through a complicated system of bicycle delivery.

My thoughts: Everyone has been talking about China, both the challenges and the opportunities that the market presents for retailers. Establishing a brand presence directly to consumers is a challenge, but the logistics of getting products to the customer is an equally daunting task. There are different delivery expectations and requirements across the country, ranging from fulfillment using bike couriers and hourly delivery expectations to fulfillment through drop-off locations at convenient stores in rural areas. It is best to work with in-country experts to help you navigate the complicated Chinese market.