A few weeks ago, I compared auto parts retailers with the help of my good friend Glen Tyler. This week, I’ve asked Glen to share some insight on how office supply retailers are measuring up in the hustle and bustle of back-to-school shopping.
Back-to-school season is seen by many retailers as a good barometer on how well the holiday shopping season will fare. According to the National Retail Federation, the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62 on their children, up from $603.63 in 2011. Many parents choose one of the big three back-to-school and office supply retailers; Office Depot, Office Max, Staples.
Why look particularly at the in-store experience when there are so many other channels to connect with the customer? As highlighted by Forbes in “Clicks and Mortar: Why In-Store Experience Matters (Now More Than Ever), in-store is still the only place where customers can “touch and feel” the product. The in-store experience is also the hub of the majority of retail transactions, despite the rise of web and mobile based purchases.
Back-to-school savings are prominently displayed on Office Depot’s website and their slogan, “It’s Depot Time,” is reflected well in their radio and TV spots. Back-to-school specials are also highlighted with a link to “School Time is Depot Time.” They also create trust with their “Worry Free Laptop Offer” and their cause marketing efforts through their association with the Born This Way Foundation. After reviewing their social, web, TV & radio spots, I headed off to the store. Displayed throughout Office Depot was signage that attempted to inspire, “Be Unique,” “Be Inspired,” “Be Bolder,” and “Be Extraordinary.” Not only did they highlight product, but they also linked their in-store messages back to Born That Way.
When I went to the register to purchase my product, I asked if I could make a donation to Born this Way. I was told that I would need to do this online. Being able to add a few bucks to my purchase via a debit or credit card would have helped tie the cause together in-store. This foundation is tied in with Lady Gaga. Bringing her image in-store would have been a powerful way to create more emotion such as is highlighted in the blog “Celebrity Endorsements Create Emotion in Shoppers.”
As I drove up to the store, it was easy to see that OfficeMax was off to a good start. Their at-store messages were identical to the image they were promoting online and through their advertisements. They boldly promote “Big, Back 2 School Deals” and their bold use of colors and fonts is very consistent and impactful. In fact, the use of bright colors reminded me of one brand I have a “crush” on; Pier 1 Imports (Click here for a review).OfficeMax has a plentiful amount of in-store signage, which drove me to purchase notebooks, markers, and backpacks.
After a tour of the store, I walked out with a smile on my face, and in that sense, they connected to me.
But there is more opportunity for OfficeMax because they support an important cause. OfficeMax joined with Adopt-A-Classroom to create A Day Made Better, which is a one-day event that awards more than 1,000 teachers with over $1,000 in school supplies, and brings attention to the issue of teacher funded classrooms. Unfortunately, I had to hunt a bit to find its presence online and in-store. Utilizing the emotional power and relevance of this important cause would engage shoppers and enhance their emotional connection to OfficeMax’s brand.
A rainbow of colors, matched with stand-out, 3D photography abound in Staples in-store marketing. Consistency across channels is strong as well. Their website, Twitter and in-store are uniform in promoting “15% off back-to-school savings.” Additionally, Staples’ “easy” button is not only catchy but effective, as I found the in-store experience, well, easy. Note how their cause marketing, Do Something, is effectively tied in with Staples for Students in-store with actress/singer Bella Thorne.
Who won in this office supply back-to-school competition? Which effort to connected with the customer causing them to become loyal, year-round shoppers? I have my opinions, what are yours? A few other retailers were mentioned in this post. Are there some examples of excellent in-store marketing that you’ve seen from other retailers that these office supply retailers should implement?