Sentiment of the Week: Strategy among Back-to-School Retailers

By: Clarabridge Team

August 6, 2015

Customer Engagement
customer experience
customer experience management

Back-to-school (BTS) shopping comes at you like a train – it feels far-off until it’s right upon you, having moved with deceptive speed. Once it rushes by you, you can’t believe that it has already come and gone.

Memo to parents and students alike: Not only has that train left the station, it’s already here.

Plenty of parents have been anticipating this shopping bonanza, but for those who are just beginning to gear up – including the 25% of shoppers who are procrastinating until late in the game – it helps to know where to go for the fall essentials. We used Clarabridge text analytics to examine the conversation surrounding back-to-school shopping, focusing on Amazon, Target, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Walmart, and Costco as some of the retailers generating the most conversation.


The chart above shows an analysis, using the Clarabridge platform, of Facebook conversation surrounding back-to-school shopping. As you can see, Amazon, Target, Best Buy, and Walmart are the leaders in online BTS shopping conversation, with Amazon and Best Buy enjoying large upticks in volume as the season ramps up. It’s not hard to imagine why – Amazon is the country’s largest online retailer, and we live in an age of emphasized convenience. Best Buy entices consumers with daily featured “College Student Deals” with $100-plus discounts and free shipping. The latter benefit is a huge deal, as a recent survey shows that 90% of college-aged back-to-school shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping offers. Those would seem like great places to start.

What do shoppers seek in a back-to-school shopping experience and how can retailers deliver in a crowded marketplace? Digging into the sentiment analysis surrounding BTS shopping, as well as survey numbers dealing with BTS, two things are clear: retailers are delivering a better experience than in years past, and about two-thirds of shoppers are planning to up their spending accordingly.

So where have the improvements come? The first, and perhaps most significant, concerns the in-store staff. While online shopping is an indelible part of the modern buying experience, 88% of consumers report that they will shop at a brick-and-mortar location – making the in-store experience an important point of differentiation.

Across the board, sentiment towards staff helpfulness has risen 0.2 from one year ago, moving from slightly negative to generally neutral. That may not sound impressive, but it is a significant shift, and reflects an emphasis on training, staffing, and employee attitudes. In addition, comments about store quality, product selection, product availability, and staff helpfulness have increased the most in sentiment from a year ago.

All of this translates to a superior in-store shopping experience across the board, with most retailers on even footing offering-wise and competing upon price and discount events. Promotions have already been created, placed, and absorbed; the needs of the parents and students are known. For retailers looking to differentiate themselves this shopping season, creating the easiest and most efficiently effective in-store shopping experience may be the best way to generate the positive word-of-mouth needed to win the day. For shoppers, though, the environment has never been more positive – and more conducive to larger spending.

Clarabridge’s blog, Sentiments, helps businesses incorporate customer sentiment and feedback into their business strategy. Published by Clarabridge, Sentiments speaks to customer experience professionals, marketers, customer care leaders and anyone who wants to make informed, strategic decisions that delight customers. Follow Sentiments on Twitter @Clarabridge.