In the dog days of summer, most folks typically don’t want to think about back-to-school shopping. Trading in the water skis and boogie boards for number two pencils and backpacks used to be nightmare fuel for students. However, this year, parents and children who have been stuck together indoors for the better part of two years see the coming term as a welcome return to normalcy. We’ll go out on a limb and say students and parents are both fired up for the approaching fall quarter. 

We know consumers will be spending big money as the school year approaches. For an industry on the mend (retail), this is an excellent opportunity to leverage digital channels such as SMS to receive the largest slice of the pie possible. Here are the various ways retail outlets can leapfrog the competition by using new use cases on familiar channels to engage customers and prospects better. 

Marketing promos, an old idea with a fresh concept

It seems that since the beginning of time, marketing has been an effective tool for brands looking to increase their business. Go to your mailbox right now, and you are sure to be inundated with direct mail ads vying for your valuable back-to-school dollars. Your inbox is likely overflowing as well. And like the direct mail ads, the email usually goes directly into the trash. But what about the channel that has a 98% open rate, typically within 90 seconds? 

Yes, SMS is an under-utilized asset in the marketing toolkit. By sending ads directly to a customer’s phone, marketers can accomplish a variety of goals. If a company wants to push eCommerce or reward loyalty, it can deliver an electronic coupon over SMS. In a few clicks, a user can make a purchase from their phone. A brand with a recent in-store makeover could use a similar concept but make the coupon redeemable in-store only, pushing users into an actual brick and mortar establishment to reveal a new enhanced experience.

Two-way communication on a ubiquitous channel 

When we think about certain back-to-school items, technical support could be necessary. Think about big purchases such as laptops or tablets. A great way to provide that support is with two-way communication on SMS, FB Messenger, and live chatbots. Mitto’s Conversations tool provides an omnichannel experience for users that can choose their favorite channel to communicate with brands. 

The tool provides a browser-based, no-code interface for companies of any size that may not be comfortable deploying an entire API. In doing so, they can stay connected to their customers and provide an engaging, personalized two-way experience. Messages can be routed to the proper department and responded to in real-time. For brands trying to separate themselves from their competition, excellent customer service can be an easy way to get a leg up.

Tracking Updates

Every consumer can relate to this one. When you buy something online, you want to know when it will arrive. Tracking updates via SMS are an easy win for brands trying to keep their customers engaged. By keeping your customers informed every step of the way, you give them peace of mind and lower your support costs. 

In addition to providing periodic shipping (and delivery) notifications, brands can also offer electronic receipts and thank users for their purchase by including a loyalty incentive such as a discount on a future purchase. Businesses can use the same technology to facilitate returns or communicate pandemic-friendly programs such as contactless experiences.

Stock checks and store locator

Even though folks have had *checks watch* two years to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year, many users will wait until the last minute for their back-to-school shopping. Think about holiday shopping and the mad rush on December 23rd and 24th. A feature that would be wildly beneficial to both your users and your bottom line is a tool that could quickly and accurately reflect the inventory of certain items across different stores. You could easily build out this feature with SMS notifications, or it could be another use case for two-way communications. 

Using Mitto Conversations, an anxious parent could find which electronics store has a new tablet in stock for their college-bound student, who happens to leave home tomorrow. They could also find out how many are available and when the store closes. Some stores post this information online, but it can be tricky to find, and the stock count is often outdated. By leveraging SMS or channels such as FB Messenger and live chat, a parents’ stress can be (somewhat) alleviated.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a circus for either the brands or the customers involved. Ease consumers into the new normal with updates to your existing customer experience. By maximizing the available communications tools, for both digital and in-person shopping, this fall’s back-to-school shopping experience can be seamless and efficient for all involved.