Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Back To School Goes In For Analysis

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Jay Henderson told us in his recent interview that IBM would soon be building upon its Holiday Benchmark e-commerce trend analysis for the holiday shopping period with the addition of a “back-to-school” analysis.

Alas, Rodney Daingerfield is no longer with us, but the IBM Benchmark can be your roommate this go ’round, the only analytics-based, peer-level benchmarking solution that measures online marketing results from the web sites of more than 500 leading U.S. retailers.

Here’s a snapshot of the back-to-school trends:

  • July and August Online Sales: Overall sales for July increased more than 11 percent over July 2011 while August slowed with sales up 3.9 percent compared to last year.
  • Social commerce: In July, shopper referrals to retailer sites from social networks generated 1.6 percent of all sales, an increase of 25.1 percent over last year. This trend continued in August reaching 1.8 percent, an increase of 69.7 percent over the previous year.
  • Mobile commerce: Mobile commerce remains strong with sales from mobile devices reaching 15.7 percent in July and 15.4 percent over the month of August.

As for vertical industries the following categories experienced success over this timeframe:

  • Home goods: In July online sales grew by just over 30 percent and 25.5 percent in August with consumers shifting some back to school purchases toward the home. Over this period mobile sales also thrived, reaching 19.1 percent in July and topping out at 20.1 percent in August.
  • Department stores: Online sales grew 22.1 percent in July and 28.7 percent in August. Over this period mobile sales were strong, hitting 19.2 percent in July and 18.9 percent in August
  • Apparel stores: Online sales were up 9.2 percent in July and 9.8 percent in August. Over this period mobile sales reached 15.1 percent and 16.4 percent in August. Apparel stores also experienced strong social commerce with shoppers referred to their sites from social networks generating 1.4 percent of all sales in July and 2.2 percent in August, up more than 113 percent over 2011, more than any other industry.
  • Office Supplies/Electronics: Online sales grew by 6.3 percent in July while dropping by .92 percent in August. Mobile sales reached 5.7 percent in July remained steady in August a 5.9 percent.

Part of IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, the IBM Benchmark provides intelligence on how consumers are responding to the products and services being offered to them.

With these insights CMOs and teams gain deeper insight into each customer which they can use to present personalized recommendations, promotions and other sales incentives across the wide variety of channels—including social networks and mobile devices.

What’s It All Mean?

While U.S. consumers shopped this July and August, they were not buying clothes and notebooks for their children but rather items for the home.

According to findings, the biggest retail gains this back to school shopping season came from home goods purchases which increased 30 percent in July and more than 25 percent in August over their respective months in 2012.

While experts speculate that consumers were holding off on back to school purchases to eye the choices of their peers, social networks appeared to drive purchases with social sales increasing 69.7 percent. 

The social influence was especially apparent when it came to apparel, where shoppers referred to online stores through social networks generated a 2.2 percent of all sales in August, an increase of more than 113 percent over 2011.

Mobile commerce also continued to grow with sales increasing 15.7 percent in July and 15.4 percent in August. For home goods mobile sales reached a high of 20.1 percent.

The growing influence of both mobile and social media further validates the need for a Smarter Commerce approach that helps retailers attain, understand, and act — in real-time — on deep insights about their customers in order to meet the unique needs of each.

“When I speak to executives at the leading companies, one of the discussions that continues to come up most frequently is around harnessing big data and their efforts to try and understand how to take all the noise and word of mouth that is being generated and make sense of it,” explained W. “RP” Raghupathi, Professor of Information Systems, School of Business, at Fordham University.

“Today, with so many consumers shopping and sharing their opinions online, we are seeing more and more retailers tap into the power of sophisticated analytics technology to help them react faster to evolving trends and customer needs.”

Read this blog post from IBM’s Mike Rhodin (or better yet, watch the video interview we conducted with him in Madrid this past May) to learn more about “insight-driven” computing and IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative.

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