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In the past, back to school shopping conjures images of moms, minivans and moving from store to store with shopping lists.  Today’s back to school shopping trips for families are more of a logistics exercise with moms doing online research and checking on social media to find the best deals before they set foot in the first store.

This is backed by recent researching showing the rise of the “Connected Mom”.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUg2oo2XTFk

In a recent article titled “Digital Moms Favor Informative Ads” by eMarket.com, based on research from the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement and Media Behavior Institute,  survey shows that Gen X moms consumer more media on mobile than even television.   

In Deloitte’s 2011 Back to School Survey, research shows  that 64% of respondents with smart phones plan to use them for back-to-school, and 43% will download discounts, coupons and sales information.  Social media is also playing a role with 35% of respondents using social networking sites to assist in shopping.

What is leading to this change and what is the implication for retailers?  I talked to Laura Heller, contributor to Forbes.com retail blog Point of Purchase, who recently wrote about the back to school season

Two fundamental factors from my point of view is driving this trend: Increased geographic distribution of families and the affordability of mobile devices and data communications. 

As families become more mobile, extended families are spread out geographically, mobile and social media technologies became the common element for information in the household.  The affordability of mobile devices and data plans is driving out traditional land line communications, creating new generation of consumers that are mobile, technology savvy and expect “My Shopping My Way” any time anywhere they wish.

Laura points out that with the current economy, families are time and financially strapped.  Budgets are being looked at closely with a lot of plans to re-use items.  Moms may spend up to an hour of research before leaving home to get to the first stop for back to school shopping.  Also with the high fuel prices, families are trying to optimize their shopping with as few stops as possible, that’s why they leverage technology to confirm product pricing and availability.

What does it mean for retailers?  Laura points out several things

-        Retailers need to be able to support multichannel shopping especially on mobile devices.  Having information on price and availability on a mobile friendly site is definitely a critical first step to getting on the family shopping list.

-        With pricing transparency offered by mobile devices and social network, retailers need to establish value based on something other than price , such as exclusive store brand and partnerships with suppliers to drive shoppers to the stores.

-        Integration of the shopping journey from home to mobile to the store would be critical to attract shoppers.  Retailers that can take the proverbial list and help moms reduce the number of stops would give them opportunity to be on the family’s first stop.

How is your back to school shopping coming along this year?   Are the retailers you see doing a good job helping you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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