CNSS Panel Session Recap: “How to Reenergize Customers With Back to School”

👉 Register to attend the 2024 CommerceNext Growth Show on June 11-13 in NYC to learn from 150+ industry leaders about ecommerce and retail growth.

Today’s guest post is by Linda Shein, Retail Innovator & Business Growth Architect.  

Thanks to CommerceNext for inviting me back to moderate at the Spring Summit, “Marketing for the Next Normal.” Our A-Team panel shared great insights, and included Mike Dupuis, Chief Digital Officer, SPARC Group (Forever 21, Lucky Brand, Aeropostale, Eddie Bauer, Nautica, Brooks Brothers); Angela Clark, EVP Digital, True Religion; Stephan Jacob, Founder & COO, Cotopaxi (digital-first outdoor brand); and Mark Pinard, Head of Product Marketing, Lob (direct mail innovator).

Watch the full session here.

Following are key takeaways around cultivating best practices in a sea of constant change, for Back to School and beyond:


  • Heading into Back to School with strong budgets for not only marketing programs but also new initiatives including website and mobile enhancements, and continued omnichannel investments.
  • Prioritizing agility to flow with changes, keeping commitments fluid to optimize how and when to deploy dollars.
  • Unleashing “mad scientists” to continually innovate, and hiring teams with demonstrated agility and ability to innovate as a new norm.
  • Keeping abreast of daily external and internal changes in a deliberate way, while maintaining open communication across the c-suite to keep everyone on the same page.

Data Analytics

  • Leveraging data analytics at an accelerated pace, while also drawing on experience to make decisions which at times may not reflect the data.
  • Moving to testing-first mindset in an environment that is changing faster than ever, in some cases testing as many as 500 variables for a single campaign.
  • Standardizing processes to manage and interpret data.

Marketing & Omnichannel Tactics

  • Amping up “listening” across touchpoints to stay one step ahead of the customer, to respond to changes in behavior and traffic patterns to sites, stores, social channels, etc.
  • Lowering friction and increasing convenience and personalization at every customer touchpoint.
  • Integrating offline and omnichannel even more so given accelerated online adoption. ie BOPIS and curbside pickup become table stakes not differentiators; what’s old is new again with physical mailboxes offering a less crowded venue vs email.
  • Leveraging “campus ambassadors” and nano/micro influencers, prioritizing meaningful engagement vs number of followers. Selection for brand alignment is as rigorous as fulltime hires.
  • Experimenting with livestream shopping, but most feel it is still too early (why is US adoption so slow vs China? One to watch.).
  • Negotiating performance-based leases with compelling ROIs in the wake of the store closings tsunami, being mindful this will shift as retailers chase the opportunity.

As retailers strike an optimistic note going into summer and Back to School, all are banking on pent-up demand and staying close to the consumer to drive a robust back half of the year. Still, a pressing question remains to what extent will we see traffic return to physical stores, and how much to invest there in what timeframe. Regardless, Back to School is the kickoff to whatever will be our Next Normal, with retailers prioritizing agility, analytics and personalization at every touch point for the foreseeable future.