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Aug 23, 2023 5 min to read

What Brands Can Learn From the Back-to-School Season

As the 2023 back-to-school season showed the intersection of in-person and online interactions, we take a look at the secret ingredient that powers truly omnichannel customer experiences, along with three ways that brands can offer a cohesive online and offline experience. School's in.


Back to School
Customer Experience
Physical Channels
Product Experience
Retail Trends
Though kids are just starting to flex their new backpacks and sequined pencil bags in the classroom, the back-to-school shopping season for brands and retailers kicked off late last June and, like many shopping seasons, it feels like it starts earlier and earlier every year.

However, unlike other shopping seasons, back-to-school shopping has historically had one key, unique aspect: it’s particularly popular for in-person experiences.

Sure, parents may start the shopping process by browsing on Amazon for what’s available, or look up what brands are offered at the nearest office supply store. But nearly half of all back-to-school shoppers visited a department store this year, so as important as your digital product experience is (and it is definitely important), at least half of your consumers are expecting an equally compelling experience in person, and leaving them hanging can result in lost sales, increased returns, and unhappy customers.

So whether you’re looking to help out those straggling parents looking for last-minute back-to-school deals, or you want to invest in a better, truly omnichannel product experience in time for the holiday season and Black Friday, let’s take a look at three ways your organization can provide consistent, engaging product experiences anywhere your customers may encounter your product.


3 Tips for Optimizing In-Person Product Experiences

1. Ensure in-store sales associates have up-to-date product information

“When will these mechanical pencils be back in stock?”

“Where can I find a waterproof, shatterproof, and stain-proof lunchbox?”

Which calculator is approved for use in the SAT?”

In-store sales associates deal with these questions and more, and besides a sunny disposition and the ability to memorize the layout of a store, one of the best tools a sales associate can have in their arsenal is information; stock availability, product materials, prices or available promotions, color and size variations, environmental impact, warranty support, and more.

Well-informed sales associates can:

  • Identify opportunities for cross-selling or upselling based on a customer’s wants or needs
  • Provide personalized assistance that leads to a positive and memorable shopping experience
  • Educate shoppers on which products best fit their specific needs, leading to reduced return or exchange rates
  • Improve customer loyalty and trust, as they become a representation of your brand

Like many things in life, providing this level of information is easier said than done. If your organization doesn’t have a centralized record of product information that can be easily syndicated to your retail partners or brick-and-mortar stores, then hunting down even the most basic availability or shipping information becomes an arduous, time-consuming task. By the time the in-store associates receive the information, it’ll be out of date. 

A constant flow of communication and real-time information updates is the name of the game when it comes to equipping in-store associates with the information they need to provide strong in-person customer experiences, and that can only happen with a centralized product record that supports syndication to physical channels or retailers.


2. Communicate your brand’s values everywhere and anywhere

Whether a customer comes to your eCommerce site, stumbles upon your product on Amazon, or sees your product on the shelf of their closest department store, you want to make sure that your brand and what you care about as a company is communicated effectively.

Packaging and marketing collateral with clear and concise messaging around your sustainability efforts or commitment to diversity and inclusion can be a powerful way to connect authentically with shoppers who share the same value set. And with two-fifths of consumers willing to pay more for a brand that communicates brand values, you could be missing out on a significant chunk of revenue by leaving out this crucial information.

Let’s take a look at a brand that does this very well; Patagonia. Known for its commitment to environmental and social responsibility, Patagonia effectively communicates its values and sustainability efforts through every aspect of their product experience. 

From statements on their clothing tags that encourage customers to repair and recycle the item rather than discard it to their website that provides detailed information about their supply chain practices and environmental campaigns, Patagonia’s values seep through every interaction a customer may have with their brand.


Patagonia tag



Patagonia also provides the “Footprint Chronicles”, a tool on their website that allows customers to track the environmental and social impact of certain products. Not only does their site showcase individual product stories detailing the entire lifecycle of specific items, but it also provides data on factors such as energy use, carbon emissions, and water consumption associated with the production and transportation of their products. 


Patagonia Footprint Chronicles



Patagonia does a great job of meeting their customers wherever they are, and communicating exactly what matters to them and what they’re doing to help. This leads us nicely to our last tip, which is all about creating cohesive journeys between offline and online experiences.


3. Power cohesive hybrid shopping journeys between online and offline touchpoints

Consumers don’t want just a digital experience, and they don’t want just an in-person shopping experience. In the past year, over 84% of consumers utilized ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) shopping, while 77% of consumers opted to purchase online and pick up the item in-store.

By seamlessly blending the convenience of online shopping with the personal engagement of an in-store experience, these hybrid shopping journeys can encourage brand loyalty and trust, but require careful management and communication of product information across channels.

Maybe you offer a way to reserve a product online to try on in-store, or perhaps users of your mobile app receive a coupon for their next in-store purchase. But imagine the disappointment when a customer shows up to pick-up a product they had ordered online and their purchase is unavailable because the website didn’t have updated stock availability information.

The backbone for cohesive hybrid shopping journeys is product information; it fuels both in-person and digital experiences, and ensures that the consumer is able to make educated purchasing decisions at any stage.


ROBO Statistics


Truly Omnichannel Product Experiences

This back-to-school season proved that in-person experiences remain a vital part of the shopping journey for many consumers. Customers expect the flexibility and convenience of online shopping, as well as the in-person experience of brick-and-mortar stores. Brands who can successfully provide a hybrid and cohesive shopping experience that seamlessly integrates both digital and physical channels will be well-positioned to succeed in the upcoming holiday shopping season and beyond.

If you’re looking for help creating a centralized product record to support truly omnichannel product experiences, reach out to an Akeneo expert today.

Akeneo Product Cloud

Discover how Akeneo technology can power your PX Strategy and help you create the foundation needed for strong product experiences.

Casey Paxton, Content Marketing Manager


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