Sage Advice US

It’s back-to-school season… are you ready?

Yes, it’s that time of year again – back-to-school!

Back-to-school season can be exciting and overwhelming, and not just for teenagers starting high school. As the second-largest shopping season of the year, spending this year for back-to-school and back-to-college should reach $83.6 billion, representing an increase of more than 10% over last year. Economic projections may be up, but that doesn’t mean to sit back, relax and simply watch the money roll in. There are broad scale consumer spending shifts and market trends to consider to maximize earning potential and keep you ahead of competition.

People are still buying back-to-school items in stores 

Spending is growing online and through mobile apps, but the majority of spending still happens in store. It’s obvious that consumers do research before going in store to compare prices and styles, gather ideas, and narrow down searches, but as a merchant, keep your products on the shelves, at least for now.

Deals (and free shipping, specifically) are on-trend

People prefer loyalty programs that provide either discounted or free shipping, and simply appreciate free shipping in general. Additionally, according to the Deloitte 2017 Back to School Survey, 27% of people will use social media sites to assist with shopping, and 75% of those people will do so to view ads and promotions. Takeaway? Do you have a loyalty program? It may be time to start. Offer free shipping as an incentive to sign-up.

There’s pressure from the kids

Not surprisingly, purchases are a joint decision between parents/guardians and their children. 50% say children influence back-to-school purchases. This may never change from a behavioral standpoint, but the way they hear about products for school will. Digital means continue to grow, albeit at a slowing pace. YouTube and social media continue to be great ways for marketers to engage audiences, but should be treated with caution depending on the target.

Do you want to boost your business throughout the entire school year? Here are five key ways:

1) Define SMARTER goals 

Many of us know about SMART goals, but that is just part of the puzzle. Set SMARTER goals to help you control, track and drive business growth. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic,  and Time-framed. Smarter goals go through an Evaluation stage and a Re-do. These are key to ongoing evaluation of performance and success. Once you’ve evaluated your progress, adjust your goals by doubling down on what works and abandoning what doesn’t.

2) Do your homework 

Your work day may be fragmented into attending meetings, supervising employees, attending to customers, checking messages and emails, and various “firefighting” activities. Carve out some time at least once or twice a week where interruptions are less likely. This is your time to ensure your calendar and customer database is up-to-date.

3) Make new friends 

Look for opportunities to make connections and nurture your network. Are you a retailer? Stop by other stores and chat with their owners. Keep an eye out for small, informal events or online forums where you can easily meet new people. If you know in advance who is attending an event, try to identify people you’d like to know. Approach them with their interests in mind. Then, follow up promptly with new acquaintances, offering anything they would appreciate. Remember, reciprocity pays off! (Hint: Volunteer to help in job searches involving the new contact’s friends or family members.)

4) Keep learning 

The best leaders are life-time learners. Try to set aside some time, preferably every day, to learn more. Observe. Listen. Probe. Read. Explore what you don’t know–about market trends, your vendors, inventory, costs, competitors, and technology. And most of all, learn as much as you can about your customers and your employees.

5) Get involved in extracurricular activities 

Be active in your community. Join, or volunteer to help, well-led organizations where the benefits of your participation are mutual. Ideally, many of the people you’ll be working with are influential in the community, could be prospective customers, or have goals that align with your goals.

Want to learn more about managing your cash flow this school year? Download our guide to the Six Stages of Smarter Money Management now!