Don't leave these opportunities behind

Back-to-school is the second-biggest shopping season of the year for many consumer tech brands, with shoppers poised to purchase everything from calculators to computers. Though more consumers are purchasing laptops and smartphones throughout the year, instead of only during the back-to-school season, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts the average back-to-school shopper will still spend $187 on electronics this year.

College students and their families alone plan to spend $13.5 billion on electronics this year, and even younger grade-school students may have electronics on their mandated shopping lists these days.

The NRF reported last year that 41 percent of electronics purchases were dictated by what schools required, leaving shoppers with leeway to fill in the blanks. That creates a massive sales opportunity for consumer tech brands, as long as they’re ready to capitalize on the rush.

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How can brands prepare for this busy season and ensure their products are top of mind for shoppers faced with too many options?

Let’s Get Learning

As much as consumers want to be experts on all things new and cool in tech, the truth is, it’s hard to keep up. There are always new features, new models and updated technical specifications to consider, and shoppers can struggle to differentiate among various options. Consumers want to be sure they’re making the best decision, especially when electronics price tags are hefty, but they need help in order to do that.

That may explain why the percentage of consumers conducting research before making back-to-school electronics purchases has increased over the past few years, hitting 81 percent in 2017. Many of them looked up online reviews of products and brands, but more than half — 52 percent in fact — are looking for assistance from an in-store associate.

Consumer tech brands need to invest in field teams during the back-to-school season to make sure they have well-trained associates available on store floors. Field agents can engage with consumers, answering questions and explaining different product features, driving sales in the process. And agents can also educate in-store associates to better sell your product. Retail intelligence from ThirdChannel shows that when there are two or more well-trained associates in stores, sales of the brand are nearly 3x higher.

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Data also shows that a consumer brand that invested in brand agents in stores was able to engage nearly 700 store associates, educating them on the brand history and product specifications. Those associates engaged more than 3,000 consumers in turn, resulting in 338 units purchased (an 11 percentr conversion rate). The more knowledgeable and enthusiastic the sales associate, the more sales your brand will make.

Try Before You Buy

When field teams visit store locations, they can also help drive sales and increase visibility by optimizing the in-store environment. That means checking on inventory, cleaning up back-to-school displays, moving units to high-traffic areas within the store and, importantly, making sure display units work.

Consumers planning to buy products like laptops, tablets and even calculators during the back-to-school season like having the chance to test out different options before they buy. If your display units aren’t functioning properly — or worse still, you don’t have units on display at all — shoppers will likely skip head to your competitor instead.

One leading audio equipment brand worked with our retail intelligence platform and field force, investing in a field team to check on their display units in 664 store locations. They found that though the majority of units were working properly, around 100 stores had malfunctioning displays. Left unfixed, that could have meant a major missed sales opportunity. Instead, agents working with the brand accelerated display repair, resolving the majority of display issues promptly.

That kind of quick problem-solving is essential during the back-to-school season. Consumer tech brands can rely on data to keep close tabs on what’s working and what isn’t, so retail execution issues can be fixed quickly during this critical sales period.

Gina Ashe is CEO of ThirdChannel, a retail intelligence platform designed to enables consumer brands and retailers to see what's happening – or should be happening – with products on the ground in thousands of stores in real time. Ashe has 20 years of experience in technology and retail that spans startup to Fortune 100 companies.

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