The Top 10 Tips for Optimizing Your Marketing Strategy this Back to School Season

July 17, 2019

This year, total Back to School U.S. consumer spending will approach $83B. How can marketers and retailers optimize their digital strategy to reach more customers during this highly competitive retail season?

The ForwardPMX Back to School Report dives into the most popular brands and products, consumer shopping behaviors and seasonal trends, designed to uncover significant opportunity for retailers looking to make it a successful season. We’ve pulled together the top 10 tips from the report, with some exclusive insight from our research and media experts.

1. School start dates are the primary drivers of demand and, “localized campaign strategies can really help capitalize on geographic variability,” advised Glenn Lalich, VP of Research at ForwardPMX. For relevant timing, it’s critical to look at local and national school calendars for insight into when to run campaigns and ensure adequate budget.

2. The student population has grown more diverse, with Hispanic enrollment growing the fastest. Consider that Hispanic families are slated to spend more than the average as well. This can mean taking a more nuanced approach to your messaging, and overall product and marketing strategy.

3. In 2015, Amazon changed the landscape of Back to School shopping with its first ever “Prime Day,” offering a myriad of products at discounted prices. With the event growing in size, and sales generated increasing each year – 80% of back to school shoppers said they planned to shop Prime Day last year –  it is more important than ever to consider the “prime-effect” in your strategy. Using “Prime”-like language in your copy can help to gain share of voice for your brand. On the other end of the spectrum, Paul Freibott, Senior Director of Research at ForwardPMX, explains that, “some retailers are looking to take some ownership by creating their own themed days,” such as summer Black Fridays.

4. Sixteen states will promote tax holidays in July or August this year. Consider that consumers will be searching for these, and that searches also occur in adjoining states as well. VP of Research, Glenn Lalich, advises that “this demand indicates an opportunity to promote tax holidays within the states in which they occur, and potentially more broadly.”

5. Free shipping is an expectation amongst consumers and remains the #1 incentive for Back to School shoppers. If you don’t offer free shipping, or other similar shipping incentives, you may find yourself at a disadvantage against other retailers who do.

6. Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPUS) continues to grow in popularity, with late-start shoppers, in particular, appreciating this option. From a marketer’s perspective, when retailers get additional foot traffic from BOPUS customers, a good percentage of them will make another purchase while they’re there.

7. School searches for seasonal items like “school supplies” are heavily nonbrand. Senior Director of Research, Paul Freibott, explains that, “this is an opportunity to get in front of people when they have not yet searched for a brand.”  Note that every year, the most popular search term is the year itself, which indicates that people want fresh content and current information. Consider this in your SEO and content strategy for back to school.

8. “When people search for school shoes, they usually mean sneakers most of the time. Sneaker interest is up, and it looks like interest is shifting earlier each year,” said Freibott. Paid search also plays a greater role for shoes than other back to school products, with sneaker brands like Nike dominating search queries for school/kids shoes. Budgeting more spend for paid search would be ideal.

9. Interest in TVs remains down vs. 2016, as younger consumers are more likely to stream content on laptops and phones.

10. “The small percent of college students drives a surprisingly high amount of sales,” expresses Lalich, with 67% of back to school dollars being spent on or by college students, while they only comprise 18% of total school enrollment. A strategy that is inclusive of their wants and needs is essential.

For more insights, download the ForwardPMX Back to School Trend Report here. The replay of our July 10th webinar is also available is watch and download.

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