7 Ways to Leverage Back-to-School in Your Business

Author: Stephanie Taylor Christensen | August 29, 2016

Back-to-school is the second biggest consumer spending opportunity for many retailers after the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. In fact, consumers with children in grades K–12 spent nearly $500 on the 2015 back-to-school season; families with a student in college spend more than $1,300 on back-to-school, according to research by Deloitte.

Because back-to-school means demand for a range of product categories by a broad consumer audience, it can be a prime opportunity for retailers of all sizes. Here are seven ways you can attract back-to-school shoppers to your business.

  1. Mark your calendar for back-to-school season

    While slightly more than half of the respondents to Deloitte’s survey planned to do their back-to-school shopping in the month leading up to the start of school, nearly 30% planned to postpone the task until after the first day of school. Check the academic calendars for schools near your business. Pair that geographic information with your website analytics to reveal present opportunity for online sales so you can market, purchase inventory, and staff your business accordingly.

  2. Work with your local schools

    Reach out to your local school system’s leadership to identify how your business can be a back-to-school shopping resource. For example, you may offer to display back-to-school supply lists in store and online, merchandise products on the supply list near the front of your store, and/or stock specific products on the lists in your online and in store inventory. (Nearly 70% of respondents to Deloitte’s survey said they prioritize buying items on the list over their child’s preference). Wal-Mart tells the National Retail Federation it has found success with a Teacher Appreciation Week program that gives teachers 10% back (in the form of a gift card) for out-of-pocket classroom purchases.

  3. Appeal to their economic sensibilities

    Respondents to Deloitte’s survey planned to be diligent about researching prices online before buying and expected to find lower prices online than brick and mortar stores. Assure customers you offer the best value with marketing messages that compare your prices to other retailers. You may even consider a low-price guarantee designed to refund consumers the difference if they find an item you sell at a lower price.

  4. Tailor your online strategy accordingly

    Nearly 70% of Deloitte’s respondents said they are more likely to buy from an online retailer who offers free shipping on back-to-school items; nearly 20% gravitate to retailers who offer a “buy online, pick up in store option.” You may not have the capacity to offer such promotions and services year-round, but temporarily including them in your back-to-school strategy could help you capture the same customers you’ll want to have a relationship with during the holiday shopping season.

  5. Stock the right products in the right place

    Nearly 90% of respondents to Deloitte’s survey would buy school staples like paper, pencils, and books in a brick and mortar environment; 80% would buy shoes in a retail store, and 71% would buy backpacks and lunch bags in a brick and mortar store. However, they have far less channel preference for items like technology and wearables.

    Use cross-promotions to maximize sales. For example, if you sell children’s shoes, figuring out which customers are likely to buy in-store promotions that encourage them to buy backpacks and lunch bags at the same time can help you capture a greater share of wallet. If you sell online, free back-to-school kits of paper, pencils, and notebooks with a technology purchase could encourage customers to buy from your site while saving them a trip to the store.

  6. Be specific to your customer

    Back-to-school shoppers between the ages of 18 to 29 do the bulk of their shopping at off-price and specialty clothing stores, according to Deloitte’s data. Shoppers between the ages of 30 and 44 visit discount and value department stores for back-to-school needs, and consumers who are between 45 to 60 years old spend online more than any other age group. Understand which audience presents the most opportunity for your business so you can customize a marketing strategy that addresses the competitors they’re most likely to consider.

  7. Market on their devices

    Confirm that your business location and hours are accurately reflected on mapping sites like Google My Business and in social media channels and that your products appear in search engine results for sites like Google Shopping, NexTag, and PriceGrabber. More than half of Deloitte’s survey respondents said they use their smartphones to download discount offers, get price information, and find a store when shopping for back-to-school supplies.

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