Be a marketing valedictorian: 5 tips to prepare for back-to-school season
By Erika Jolly Brookes, CMO, Springbot
As barbeques give way to school bells, retailers gear up for back-to-school sales. July to September is the second busiest shopping period of the year — and during these months in 2017, retailers will accumulate more than $857 billion in sales, according to eMarketer.
Online sales for back to school in 2017 are expected to further outperform last year's record setting numbers across the five key product areas for the season: apparel and accessories; books, music and video; computers and electronics; office equipment and supplies; and toys, hobbies, and sporting goods. eMarketer reports online sales within these core back-to-school verticals will reach $37.56 billion. According to Deloitte's 2017 back-to-school survey, 21 percent of consumers will complete back-to-school shopping online, while another 22 percent — worth $5.4 billion — are undecided, but could be swayed through well-executed targeted marketing.
What steps can your online store take to capture the committed and uncommitted online shopper for back-to-school shopping? Consider these five tips to ensure your marketing passes the first and final exam.
Tip 1: Different ads for different audiences
Even though back-to-school shoppers head to stores or online with the same general goal, not all consumers seek the same items.
According to the Rubicon Project, K-12 parents spent $324 on technology in 2016 compared to college parents' $470; after technology, K-12 parents focused on apparel and college parents focused on dorm supplies. College students may need more furniture or appliances, and they'll almost certainly be required to purchase more advanced technology. Do a deep dive into your data to determine your various buyer personas using reach, frequency and monetary (RFM) segments to develop ads that target their needs. Using personalization to cut through the advertising noise will lead to more website traffic and, ultimately, more sales.
Tip 2: Social media channels drive awareness
Deloitte found that 27 percent of consumers will utilize social media in back-to-school shopping. Of those, a great number of those shoppers will use social platforms to seek product recommendations, retailers and sale info.
First and foremost, understanding your best day, time of day and type of social content going into the development of your back-to-school marketing campaign and capitalize on that for scheduling your posts. Social sharing of valuable content or deals in conjunction with popular shopping days is also an opportunity. For example, your store could post exclusive coupons on Facebook to coincide with tax-free shopping days. Fifty-three percent of consumers would increase their in-store spending, and 44 percent of consumers would increase their online spending, during a sales tax reduction/holiday, according to Deloitte.
Tip 3: Mobile websites for a mobile generation
Nearly 50 percent of shoppers will use mobile for back-to-school shopping; many will use it to research prices and discounts, according to Deloitte. This means stores without an easily navigable mobile website or app risk end-user frustration. Ensure that your website adapts for mobile screens and provides plenty of white space to avoid mistaken clicks. Creating a streamlined checkout process with fewer clicks lessens the risk of an abandoned shopping cart. If your store runs an app, make sure menu options are clear and prices match up with the regular mobile site.
Tip 4: An email campaign that completes the sale
Timely automated behavioral emails will make an impact for brands focused on online sales. If customers begin shopping on your website, but leave their shopping cart before completion because they became distracted, are price shopping or otherwise, you're losing out on revenue unnecessarily. In fact, Yahoo Small Business estimates 83 percent of online shoppers abandon their carts, causing millions in lost revenue. Ensure you have a method to capture email addresses for abandoned carts, and consider setting automated behavioral emails with a reminder or offer to come back and finish the transaction.
Tip 5: An understanding of metrics that matter
It's never too late to dig into your store's data from last year and then track that performance for now and the future. Back-to-school shopping provides a multitude of information to explore, from purchase habits to customer demographics and to best product purchased. Store your back-to-school data and use it to develop strategies for next year's rush.
Running a successful back-to-school marketing campaign doesn't have to be advanced calculus. In fact, companies that employ an ecommerce marketing solution can manage retargeting, social media and email functions within a single platform. Having a bird's eye view of all marketing efforts and their metrics makes comparisons easy, allowing your organization to shift resources between efforts to build the most effective campaign. With a solid understanding of your audience and technology that simplifies consumer outreach, you can capitalize on the multi-billion dollar back-to-school shopping season.