Seven eCommerce Tips to Pass the Back to School Marketing Test


It might seem early, but the back to school marketing blitz is already gearing up.

There’s a reason it comes so early: some estimates suggest back to school season accounts for more than $72 billion in consumer spending. Backpacks, calculators, sneakers and staplers are on the list of must-haves for millions of Americans—both parents and students.

Studies show that a large part of those buyers continue to turn to online retailers to satisfy their wishlists, which has been a boon to eCommerce websites. Back to school dollars are obviously there for eCommerce websites, but it’s not as simple as setting up shop, opening the doors, and expecting a surge of buyers. With so much competition, making sure these consumers find and buy has proved to be an important test for the average eCommerce site to pass.

eCommerce websites need to cater specifically to the back to school shopper mindset. In an effort to launch earlier each year however, many eCommerce destinations are setting themselves up for failure by treating back to school shoppers as any other consumer segment. Every marketing asset needs to appeal to back to school shoppers—from content to ad creative to website design.

Appealing specifically to the back to school shopper involves a combination of timing, content, and foresight. The following seven tips can be used by any eCommerce entity to better understand them and optimize marketing to create a connection with them.

Important points that can be used:

1.     Optimize your website for the research stage and buying stage – As per research by Google in 2013, back-to-school shoppers research products in end July and start buying in the second week of August.

Based on this data, retailers should optimize their website in July with the goal of presenting as much information as possible, and collecting visitors’ email addresses. Also, don’t forget to collect as much information as possible for remarketing purposes. In August, your strategy should shift to driving purchase behavior through the use of sales promotions and offers, while leveraging the email and remarketing list that they built up in July or before.

2.     Treat it like how you would holiday sales season – Back to school is turning into a mini-holiday season, and retailers should have similar strategies as the holiday season to tap this demand. These could include offers, sales promotions, discounts, bulk or package deals, free shipping, coupons, or store credits that can be used later.

3.     Listen to the influencers – Parents and students are often influenced by a large number of influencers who could be reaching them through any medium: print, TV, radio, desktop, mobile or personally. Pay attention to these influencers who recommend what kinds of products to buy. Often, they are teachers who recommend products that will appeal to parents: sturdy, long-lasting stationery and clothing that make for smart, cost-effective purchasing.

Push these same products on your website and if possible, try to get endorsements or reviews from the influencers.

4.     Have a seamless mobile, tablet, desktop and offline experience – Today’s consumers don’t split their browsing into desktop, mobile, tablet or offline. For them, it’s one seamless experience that they switch to and from depending on the situation. Your website and business should be prepared for all such situations and should switch seamlessly too. So take some time to ensure that your website works flawlessly across all devices and your messaging is consistent across channels.

5.     Shopping does not stop when school starts – According to an eMarketer study, about 76% of shopping is completed within one month of school starting, which means your deals, promos and offers can start in early to mid July and continue until mid September, a solid two months.

6.     Create content that helps – This is a very stressful time of the year for parents as well as children. Leverage any and all content marketing channels like your blog, Youtube, customer reviews from earlier years and social media to help them understand the different choices they have and the pros and cons of each. Educate them and make it easier for them to decide, and they’ll return the favor in kind.

7.     Back-to-school as a bridge to the holiday shopping season – Use all the information you collect and the shopping credits you give to fuel purchasing behavior during the holiday sales season. If shoppers have a great experience when purchasing before school starts, and you’re able to keep them engaged and top of mind with smart emails, credits and retargeting, then at the time of the holiday season you will be top-of-mind for all deals.

Back to school shopping is a spending surge second only to holiday shopping. It’s also a unique opportunity for savvy eCommerce sites to stand out from the pack and show that they are more attuned to the back to school shopper than anyone else. Rather than throwing everything against the wall to “see what sticks,” these savvy marketers need to first start with an understanding of the consumer mindset. Adopting marketing strategy and tactics informed by what back to school shoppers truly want is mission critical for today’s eCommerce websites. It’s the only way to ensure an A+ marketing effort translates into A+ sales.


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