Monday, August 3, 2009

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo, to Sears or Wal-Mart shall my freshman go?

Comforter set, check. Towels and sheets, check. Laptop, check. Microwave, check.

But to get my daughter ready to enter the University of Nebraska in three weeks to begin her first year of college, I still need to buy a futon, an alarm clock (with a LOUD alarm), a desk lamp, a television stand and some throw pillows.

Our plan is to do some shopping this weekend. Lo and behold, in my e-mail inbox early this morning was a promotion from Wal-Mart Wire -- the subject line read, “Get Your Rooms Ready for Fall: Desks, Futons, TV Stands and More.”

Bingo. I perused the items, with discounted prices no less, and rapidly marked the items I needed, then confirmed they are in stock at the closest Wal-Mart store (3.52 miles from my east Lincoln home). I printed the pages, showed them to Holley, and we made a date to do our off-to-college shopping on Saturday.

Sears, on the other hand, had a different strategy for boosting back-to-school sales. The retailer recently introduced a Facebook page with three applications designed to help college students plan for their move into dorms. It comes with such applications as a dorm room designer tool.

There’s just one problem. Sears is reaching out to the students; Wal-Mart contacted me, the parent. The one with the wallet that actually has money in it.

My daughter loves Facebook, but Sears’ new page isn’t going to interest her. Why? She doesn’t need it. The dorm designer application is provided online at the University of Nebraska Web site. So is the roommate matchup, a tool that allows you to get to know your college roommate.

But Sears’ bigger mistake, in my opinion, was focusing its efforts on the students. Wal-Mart moved up the money chain and marketed to the parents. If a bet were placed on which retailer garners the biggest share of the back-to-school pie, in the Field house, the money is on Wal-Mart.

-- Katherine Field


Denise Lee Yohn said...

this speaks to one of those classic marketer's challenges -- do we target the end user or the "gatekeeper"? ssems like these retailers should be smart enough to do both with targeted efforts to each audience.

Sarah Schupp said...

LOVE this article! I completely agree - you should reach out to the parents!

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