Only 10% will turn to social networks for recommendations, down from 35% in 2011, a Deloitte study finds. But 44% of smartphone owners will research on their devices and 29% buy via mobile.
An annual survey of back-to-school shoppers suggests they’re more reliant on their smartphones than ever before, and less on social media.
Four out of five smartphone owners plan to use those devices in some way as they shop in advance for their schoolchildren, according to the study commissioned by business and technology consulting firm Deloitte. The largest percentage, 57%, will use their devices to get coupons or price and sales information, while 44% of smartphone owners will access a retailer’s website forback-to-school shopping. Among other uses, 29% will complete their purchases using their smartphones and 21% will access a mobile shopping app. The online survey polled a sample of 1,015 U.S. parents of school-age children from July 5-8, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
The results reveal that more parents—31%—plan to complete their back-to-school shopping, whether online or offline, after the start of the school year, a 5-percentage-point increase from 2014. Spending will remain flat for children in grades K-12 and college, at $1,747, compared with $1,766 last year, the study states.
The results also show that retailers no longer control the shopping agenda, even for bargains, and that online retailers must focus on satisfying the customer with excellent service and free shipping.
“Today is about share of heart. Do customers really like me? Do they like doing business with me?” says James Dion, head of Chicago retail consulting firm Dionco Inc.
“This comes with how easy you are to deal with; how good is your return policy? Do you have live chat? Do you have a community that I care about? Do you share my values?” Dion says. “Free shipping is critical.”
A retailer must become part of a consumer’s day-to-day life to keep up, he says.
Dion cited as examples of retailers doing it right as Apple, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, Kiehl’s, Amazon.com (No. 1) and subscription lingerie service Adore Me (No. 634).
Dion says he found it surprising that only 10% of those polled this year said they rely on social media for back-to-school shopping advice, down from 18% last year and 35% in 2011. The finding reflects a new generation of nonconformists, even though they value social media interaction, he says. “Social media is becoming less of a commercial thing for them,” Dion says.
Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, says consumers are seeking products when they need and intend to use them, even at the expense of bargain hunting. Retailers are responding by more closely integrating their online and store operations, and they should do so with even greater sophistication, he says.
Other findings show:
- 80% of smartphone owners in Deloitte’s survey plan to use their devices in the back-to-school shopping process, an increase of 6 percentage points over last year. Smartphone device ownership among the respondents has more than doubled, to nearly 90% this year from 40% in 2011.
- Of all the devices consumers own, they plan to use their smartphones most frequently for back-to-school shopping, ahead of their laptops, PCs and tablets.
- Consumers show little awareness of in-store beacon technology, which are small pieces of hardware that can send messages to a consumer who is in a store if she has downloaded the retailer’s app. Beacons, which use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless networking technology common on all newer smartphones, enable retailers, for example, to notify a shopper of a nearby sale-priced item. Among back-to-school shoppers surveyed, more than half (51%) are unfamiliar with in-store beacon technology and another one-third (32%) say they do not plan to use it.
- While online shopping destinations continue to climb year-over-year and hold the No. 2 spot (44%) behind discount/value department stores (86%), 55% of parents shopping for children in grades K-12 also say they will research online first before making a purchase in a store.
- Cyber security risks are a big concern, as 54% of back-to-school shoppers surveyed say they are more concerned than last year about the protection of their personal data when shopping online. More consumers are concerned about personal data security when shopping online (68%) compared with shopping in physical stores (50%
Parents and college students diverge when it comes to shopping influences: 55% of parents say they rely primarily on their child’s school for recommendations of what to buy this summer, while 74%t of students say they’ll rely on friends for advice, according to the “Back to College” portion of the study.