Seven Back-to-School Affiliate Marketing Trends for 2015


This article was originally published on the Marketing Scope.

Parents and students begin thinking about back-to-school shopping well before summer starts to bring the heat. In fact, a recent study of shopping trends across Google and YouTube found that people start to search for the term “back to school” in May.

To keep up, you’d better craft your affiliate marketing plan now.

In 2014, back-to-school shopping grew 5 percent for a grand total of $74.9 billion. The season’s spending touches almost every vertical, but it has a particularly strong effect on electronics, shoes, school supplies, and clothes and accessories. Because back to school is the second-largest retail season of the year, you can’t afford to keep your affiliates out of the marketing loop until the last second.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • Why you should utilize affiliate marketing this back-to-school season.
  • When back-to-school season really is.
  • Back-to-school affiliate marketing trends.

Why You Should Get Your Affiliates on Board Today

Affiliate marketing is crucial for retailers during back-to-school season. The large active community of mommy bloggers can offer powerful recommendations to its audience. And because the majority of female shoppers have a budget in mind during back-to-school shopping, they’ll turn to these blogs to find special deals and promotions.

Targeting college publishers with affiliate marketing can also be worth your time. Sites like HipSTU and Student Beans help students earn a percentage of affiliate commissions to pay for the items they need. Beauty and fashion affiliates also perform well with Millennials and back-to-college shoppers. Nearly 65 percent of back-to-school spending focuses on college students, so your marketing team would be foolish to overlook this large demographic.

Affiliate marketing can point shoppers toward your big back-to-school sales, but the promotions will only work when you know the latest affiliate trends. Here are seven trends that should inform your back-to-school affiliate marketing campaign:

1. The Season Starts Earlier

As much as you may hate seeing Christmas decorations in October, online retailers are playing the same early game when it comes to back-to-school sales. Sites have started messaging earlier and earlier for the season, which means your affiliate programs need to start preparing earlier as well. This year, some programs rolled out back-to-school messaging to affiliates as early as May.

Begin brainstorming your plan of action, and start getting in touch with the right people to get your campaign in order.

2. The Season Also Runs Later

Despite the fact that some kids will return to school as early as August, the back-to-school season extends well into September. Don’t miss out on back-to-school sales and promotions that start after summer ends.

3. College Is a Separate Group

With the majority of back-to-school spending tipping toward college students, many big retailers are now breaking out their campaigns into two separate promotions: back to school and back to college. To accomplish the same plan with your business, you’ll need two separate groups of affiliates that are promoting completely different products.

4. Mobile Advertising Is Key

You don’t have to be a statistician to see the mobile writing on the wall. It’s no surprise that affiliates making use of mobile are becoming a larger factor in seasonal promotions. Some affiliates refer their customers to mobile-friendly platforms like wishlu to create wish lists so they can send their most-wanted products to family and friends.

Make sure some of your affiliates utilize the mobile side of promotion.

5. Most Purchases Happen In-Store

Even though e-commerce has become a huge part of back-to-school shopping, most purchases will still take place in the store. In fact, only 31 percent of women shoppers will buy products online. Affiliate programs need to connect with brick-and-mortar shoppers and lure them in with special in-store promotions.

Studies show that using affiliates to drive in-store promotions results in better conversions, a higher average order value, and increased revenue. Don’t forget in-store affiliate promotions when you brainstorm for the back-to-school season.

6. Social Media Marketing Is Shifting

Pinterest and Instagram are the new hot social networks, and innovative affiliate programs are looking for ways to utilize them. Even though Pinterest no longer allows affiliate links, there are still some tactics you can use. For example, a program could give a blogger a special discount code for use on Instagram and Pinterest. The code would track back to that publisher and commission them on the sale.

7. Targeted Campaigns Are More Effective

Blanket campaigns are less effective than targeted promotions centered on specific items. One effective tactic could be creating a back-to-school shopping guide and providing your affiliates with a specific item to promote each week.

The retail opportunity during late summer and early fall is just too great to put off any longer. Last year, my company ran a successful back-to-school affiliate campaign with a children’s clothing retailer. One key feature of the campaign was a giveaway that offered in-store credit to affiliates that engaged with their readers about the brand. It also utilized prominent placements on top coupon and loyalty sites in return for increased commission.

Lastly, affiliates could submit a back-to-school blog post for the chance to be featured on the merchant’s Facebook page. As a result, the campaign led to a marked increase in week-over-week sales and new customer purchases.

Want to leverage the affiliate channel for major shopping seasons such as back-to-school and the holidays, but not sure how? Contact us and speak to one of our affiliate marketing experts.

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