Study Up: How to Jump on the Back to School Sales Bus

Here are tips for helping your omnichannel store pass the Back to School test.

OK, class. Time for a POP QUIZ:

How much will parents and children pump into the US economy during the 2018 Back to School shopping season?

A) $27.5 billion

B) $55.3 billion

C) $82.8 billion

According to the National Retail Federation 2018 survey, the answer is C) $82.8 billion, the sum of spending by parents of elementary and high school and spending by college and graduate students and their parents.

That sounds like a lot of pencils and notebooks. In reality, it’s also a lot of shoes, clothes, dormitory bedding, electronics, backpacks, lunch boxes, and hair gel. It all adds up to make the late July to early September timeframe the second biggest shopping season of the year, according to the NRF.

The NRF survey found 55 percent of parents of elementary and high school students will do some of their back to school shopping online, slightly lower than department stores (57%) but higher than discount, clothing, and office supply stores. Not surprisingly, college shoppers prefer online (49%), well ahead of department stores and other options.

Rather than procrastinating, many shoppers begin buying in late July and early August. BazaarVoice’s infographic Summer School for Marketers shows fascinating trends for when students and parents buy everything from backpacks to bedding online.

Here are tips for helping your omnichannel store pass the Back to School test:

Ace your Mobile Strategy

BazaarVoice found in 2017 that 70 percent of college students expect to make a purchase on a mobile phone. But the importance of mobile on total retail sales is more than just buying. Savvy parents and starving students are relying on mobile devices for research, price comparisons, and coupons while they’re on the go. According to Forrester Research, the total mobile impact on total retail sales is estimated at 35% in 2018. And that number is expected to reach 42% by 2022, according to Digital Commerce 360. Make sure your site is responsive on all devices and that mobile shoppers can find both online and in-store availability and promotions.

We’ve Got Spirit, How ‘Bout You?

Add promotions to your site tailored to the season’s festivities. But remember: it’s not just about saving money. As they are at Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas, shoppers are also looking for inspiration. Create product bundles, suggested products, and impulse buys, and highlight fun items. Who wouldn’t want to skip off to school carrying a Wildkin embroidered monster lunch box? Wildkin’s website includes School Gear in the navigation, making it easy to find messenger bags, lunch boxes, pencil cases, and even nap mats.

Copy from an Upperclassman

Bed, Bath & Beyond recruits students (and their parents) with a College Savings pass. Students register with their .edu email and get 20% off all purchases and free standard shipping until December. Their “Buy Now, Ship Later” service delivers straight to student housing. This saves Mom and Dad from doing the schlepping – or costly excess baggage fees for students traveling on their own.

Be Social

In addition to online ads, keep up your presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with fun hashtags related to your products. Host contests encouraging your fans to post. Want your site to go viral with the dorm, swim team, or Greek house? Add a promotion rewarding loyalty and encouraging customers to share your site. Learning lab: Uncover the Power of Social Media for your Ecommerce Site.

Think Like a Business Major

Study up on your site analytics. Look at what worked and what didn’t. Use your critical thinking skills: Does your current online platform have what you need to succeed in the upcoming year? Do your research here: The Complete Guide to Finding the Best Ecommerce Platforms for your Business.

While you’re in the midst of Back to School season, remember to think of it as a Midterm Exam. The Final, of course, begins on Black Friday and goes through the December holidays. Back to School season is a great time to refine your marketing, merchandising, and promotions.

Want to take your online store to the next level? Contact a Miva solutions architect today.

About The Author

Elisa Williams

Elisa Williams is a journalist and communications strategist who combines storytelling with solid research and analysis. A contributing author to the Miva Blog, Elisa has written for a wide array of consumer, business and technology publications, including Newsweek, Real Simple, Computer Life and Inc. Her marketing and content development work includes supporting technology companies that specialize in ecommerce, financial services and big data.

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