With the much-anticipated school year upon us, families are once again facing another set of challenges. Teachers and administrators are also having to operate on a new playing field at full capacity. That said, there are sure to be a lot of lessons to be learned over the coming months. In the meantime though, brands hip on their consumer intelligence are helping families meet their new back-to-school challenges head on.
We’ll take a look at the new school year conversation with a focus on:
- School changes for 2020.
- Brands making the most out of the back-to-school season.
- Ripple effects taking place in the market.
And here are some back-to-school stats we found in a recent Deloitte report that should be of interest to brands:
- Going into this school year, 66% of parents say they are anxious. Obviously, many have health concerns, but 38% expressed financial issues as a factor.
- Traditional school supply purchases are down this year, while technology spending is up 28%.
- 52% of respondents expressed concern about shopping online with retailers that have had consumer privacy or data breach issues.
School Changes for 2020
Early in the pandemic as schools and businesses closed, there was optimism that we’d have the coronavirus somewhat in check by the time school started in the fall. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case; which has forced a lot of changes in how school gets done. And it’s led to a lot of frustration for all involved.
While the safety of children returning to school is paramount, it has ended up looking a lot different from one community to the next. Some districts have returned to in-person attendance with increased safety precautions, while others have gone virtual. Still others have instituted a hybrid model of part-time attendance coupled with online classes. It’s really a mixed bag that looks a lot different than normal and will surely help communities learn what is best for their student body as the school year moves forward.
For remote learners and the faculty that teach them, there are technology hardware and software hurdles to face, as well as connectivity issues. For in-person classes, there’s the masks, sanitizer and social distancing standards to employ to ensure risk is as negligible as possible.
Whatever school model gets chosen for them, parents have the added pressure of having to juggle their employment to fit; while administrators have the burden of putting new educational protocols into place where failure isn’t an option. Below you can see that conversation heating up at the end of July as the new school year came onto the horizon.
As with anything pandemic related though, brands have the opportunity to step in to meet consumer need through focused social media listening.
Brands Making the Most of Back-to-School
This far into the pandemic, every brand should have a baseline understanding of the health and safety concerns that will arise with any endeavor involving the public. However, consumer intelligence based off of diligent social media listening offers brands a chance at the first fruits of consumer love in any situation.
This back-to-school season is no different and brands quick to spot a need will set the tone for everyone else to follow. For example, understanding that many school-age children may lack support options, Honda’s Canada Foundation (HCF) partnered with Kids Help Phone to provide a back to school support system including professional counsellors and crisis responders to meet that need.
And since many kids are leaning in the virtual direction, many tech-savvy brands such as EVGA and Discord have offered sweepstakes and promotions giving away new computers and tech-related gear for students. As you can imagine, these types of promotions generate lots of social traction.
But it’s not just big-name brands getting all the attention. Small businesses are coming up with great ideas too that offer creative solutions to nagging problems. For instance, here’s a single mom who figured out how to make hand-washing fun for kids by making bars of soap with a toy in the center. The more they wash, the sooner they get a reward. It’s simply brilliant for obvious reasons.
These are great brand ideas that have hit the consumer sweet spot, but since consumer intelligence is all about what’s next – what do brands need to be watching for?
Ripple Effects in Markets
There’s no doubt that this year has been a crash-course in brand adaptability – and it’s not over yet. Normally, people shop for new clothes, backpacks and traditional school supplies going into the new school year. But in true 2020 fashion, that’s down this year and tech-related items such as computers, peripherals and online subscription services are up 28% over 2019.
And in line with shifting consumer purchasing patterns, they’re looking online to get what they need. Breaking away the shopping related clusters from our back-to-school analysis, you’ll see that the top companies by primary mentions are almost all online retailers.
However, what many brands may not have noticed in the haste to rush online – only a paltry 5% of consumers say they trust brands to protect their data and privacy. Fortunately, the bubble hasn’t burst yet, but it’s a great idea for brands to be vocal about the protections they offer their consumers in this regard.
Data Breach Brand Implications
Whenever another major brand experiences a data breach, the implications could ripple market wide creating further anxiety in already nervous consumers. As a matter of fact, companies that do incur a data breach underperform the market by over 15% even three years afterwards. That’s hard enough to recover from in good times – let alone now.
On another note, parents, educators and politicians are waiting with bated breath to see how this school year unfolds in regard to the number of cases. It’s a cloud of uncertainty for sure with broad reaching market implications if the numbers aren’t sustainable.
Should schools be forced to close back down, parents would once again be forced to manipulate their work/life balance to make sure their kids were taken care of. This is hopefully an avoidable worst-case scenario – but from a business sense, brands should always factor for plausibility and the disruptions that follow. With 38% of back-to-school consumers expressing financial issues as part of their anxiety this school year, income disruptions from another school year shake-up would be an unwelcome blow to say the least.
It’s definitely a sensitive time as we enter yet another chapter of the pandemic. But as always, the brands that are staying a step ahead of the conversation are the ones basing their consumer intelligence on consistent social media listening.
Top brands are capturing every element of the conversation to track changes with powerful next generation artificial intelligence (AI). It’s that intel that puts them first on the scene to meet consumer need and reap the rewards. Are you ready to kick your consumer intelligence into high gear? Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you how!