The second week of August is peak of the peak of back-to-school shopping season for online retailer Discount School Supply.
July and August are the retailer’s strongest months of the year, with total revenue about 33% higher than the rest of the year, says Peter Walter, director of e-commerce marketing at Excelligence Learning Corp., which owns Discount School Supply. Sales and traffic begin to pick up in the last few weeks of July and really take off in the first two weeks of August before then declining again, Walter says.
And this year, sales are looking good, Walter says. He is expecting back-to-school sales to increase about 5-10% over last year thanks to a few efforts, including becoming a 1P, or first party, seller to Amazon.com Inc. Overall, about 50% of the retailer’s sales stem from online and the remaining share is by fax and telephone.
The retailer began selling on Amazon.com’s marketplace in 2016. On Amazon, Discount School Supply sold crafty items that were popular, high quality and competitively priced, he said. However, the retailer began noticing that Amazon tried to compete with Discount School Supply by offering similar products at the same price, Walter says.
“They tried to compete on some of the supplies, but it’s not as easy getting a certain quality at a certain price point,” Walter says. This didn’t last long, however, and the web giant instead, as of a few months ago, decided to buy the retailer’s products wholesale and sells them on the site.
“They chose to work with us, which is good, but a little scary,” Walter says. “If you sell to a third party, then they get the customer information.” Meaning, Amazon does not share information about the shoppers who purchase Discount School Supply’s goods.
Walter says Discount School Supply will monitor sales on the site to see how the relationship is impacting sales, if at all. For example, if Walter notices that its repeat-shopper rate is decreasing, he could infer that those shoppers are now buying to Discount School Supply products on Amazon. If web sales continue to increase and repeat shoppers remain proportional, then it’s likely that the retailer is reaching new shoppers and a different demographic of shoppers on Amazon.
Right now, the majority of the retailer’s sales from its own e-commerce site are business to business, as many early childhood directors and principals purchase its goods directly from its website. Therefore, Walter thinks sales on Amazon might reach more individual consumers. Walter estimates that a small percentage of its sales come from Amazon.com wholesale sales. Discount School Supply still is an active Amazon marketplace seller.
Discount School Supply has a few measures in place to differentiate itself from mass merchants, such as Target Corp. (No. 17 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500) and Walmart Inc. (No. 3).
For example, Discount School Supply only sells products in the school-supply category so it has a wider assortment than many mass merchants offer, such as gallon-size glue and packs of crayons for an entire classroom, Walter says. Plus, the retailer offers free shipping on orders of $33 or more, which is less than both Walmart and Target’s free-shipping threshold of $35.
Discount School Supply also is stepping up its email marketing game, Walter says. The retailer uses email marketing firm Bluecore Inc. to help segment its customers and then target them with relevant offers. For example, if the retailer knows a certain group of shoppers in its database are early childhood decision-makers and have not purchased in a while, the retailer can set up a campaign to send them an offer. The email also can change to have product recommendations based on product categories each shopper is interested in. The retailer attributes 5-7% of its e-commerce revenue specifically from Bluecore-driven email campaigns, Walter says.
Also new this year, Discount School Supply is working with performance vendor Yotta to help manage its traffic and speed up its website. Currently, the retailer is still tweaking and A/B testing how to best speed up its site, which is important as traffic spikes during this peak time, he says. The retailer is looking at moving its e-commerce platform to the cloud from its server within the next year which Walter says will also improve performance.
Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500.Favorite