5 tips for an A+ season for back to school marketers

School might be out for summer, but for back-to-school marketers, things are already heating up for the fall.

Last year, more than half of back-to-school shopping was completed by the end of July. So right now is crunch time for brands pursuing these shoppers. This is the second biggest time of year for retailers outside of the holiday season, with an estimated $37.1 billion in spending in 2021 and 7.5% expected growth in 2022. But with concerns over rising inflation and a possible recession later this year, big retailers are keeping an eye on consumer behavior in the CPG and apparel space.

With the current economic uncertainty, smart marketing is going to be more essential than ever. Delivering the right message at the right time—and understanding which consumers are most likely to convert—will reduce marketing waste for brands and ensure strong sales during a highly competitive season. Here are 5 tips to ensure your brand goes to the head of the class:

Offer choice to bolster returns

Consumers are concerned with deals. Inflation rose by 8.5% over the last year and is expected to continue to rise. According to an Epsilon analysis, back-to-school savings and discount mentions on social media have increased by 153% and there has been a 42% increase in searches for price increases over the past six months.

As consumers feel the pressure to be budget-conscious, this will impact how they’ll spend their money for school supplies. An estimated one in three shoppers will spend less compared to last year.

Marketers need to lean into these budgetary concerns. Promoting value adds like price match, price guarantees and price drops front and center will be essential in attracting shoppers across digital channels. Communicating alternative payment options, such as “buy now, pay later,” and free and/or quick shipping and returns will also increase the cache of your brand.

Clear, concise communications that highlight these options during key times can promote customer loyalty.


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Get your timing right

By early June, a quarter of back-to-school shoppers have already started browsing for school-related items, largely for tech and apparel. However, most consumers wait for the right sales to hit and are willing to shop closer to the start of school—late July and into August—to actually make a purchase. In fact, research shows consumers are willing to wait to make a purchase if there’s a chance they might secure a deal.

This will be especially true this year. Pricing will be key as consumers look to stretch their dollars and will more than likely focus on expanded options that fit a variety of budgets. Marketers need to be strategic to strike when the iron is hot, and more importantly, understand which customers to reach and when.

Leverage customer data

Better marketing originates with better insights. Knowing customers are actively shopping, now is the perfect time for brands to give personalized customer experiences that leverage customer data.

Consumers can voluntarily share their data with brands to make their shopping easier.According to a Merkle report, 76% of people are considerably more willing to provide personal data in exchange for something that benefits them. These are leveraged through multiple channels: Gamification, loyalty programs, customizable goods and online wishlists. Each compile data from the individual shopper, including insights to what they find valuable, and inform which marketing would be most effective—on a large scale and on a 1:1 basis as well.

Is an item on a wishlist that suddenly becomes discounted? You can target that customer through email or SMS to let them know of a chance in price. Is a product back in stock that they flagged in their cart? Send a push notification to let them know. Have a product that is customizable? Develop a quiz or a game to let consumers play with your product’s look and feel.

These insights can fuel customer experience year-round, driving better overall customer relationships and stronger brand loyalty.

Think multichannel

Consumers are shopping in an omnichannel world, especially those shopping for Gen Z kids.

Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, has huge buying power estimated between $150 billion to $350 billion. Social media drives trends—especially for teenagers and college-aged young adults—and brands need to be proactive about their social strategy.

For many brands, a traditional digital campaign won’t be enough. Original content, like look books, social media partnerships, checklists and more give consumers the chance to interact with your products in different ways. Social media influencers also play a huge part in the types of things school-aged and college kids are buying.

Reviews are also critical in this space—both online and on social media. Brands looking to boost their credibility should start considering how to gamify reviews now so they’re populated by the start of school.

Keep it simple

Parents want back-to-school shopping to be easy and affordable. Brands that deliver seamless experiences with price-forward messages are going to be the ones that win out this back-to-school season.

As marketers, use all the tools in your arsenal to give consumers guided experiences with affordable options, and use customer data to ensure you’re having a unique dialogue with all your customers. Initiating these types of tactics can take the friction out of an already hectic time of year and make shoppers feel as if brands have their back.