It may feel like summer just started, but across the country, school is back in session starting in August.
Back-to-school is one of the largest retail season of the year – second only to the shopping frenzy over the holidays.
About 54 percent of respondents from Deloitte’s 2015 Back-to-School Survey said that they plan to complete their back-to-school shopping a month before the school year starts. That means, now.
So what can you do to make sure you’re prepared?
Follow our 7-point checklist to ace your back-to-school marketing strategies.
1. START PLANNING EARLY
Since most people start shopping at least three weeks before school starts, you want to have your back-to-school marketing strategy in place by end of July – at the latest.
- Tempt those budget-conscious shoppers by offering them a great deal. 34% of consumers prefer a “percent off total purchase” discount when shopping, according to RetailMeNot’s Back-to-School Consumer Trends report.
- Focus on the verticals that align with your online business:
- Art and School Supplies – Elementary school students especially need to stock up on these items for class.
- Books – Most colleges and private schools require students to purchase their own books before classes begin.
- Clothing and Apparel – Come fall, everyone from kindergartners to college students will be heading to school in brand new outfits.
- Shoes – Along with those new outfits, many students will also head back to class with a new pair of shoes.
- Computers – Many students will buy new, up-to-date computers, along with software and accessories.
- Electronics – Electronic items, including smartphones, tablets, and printers, are often considered must-have products for today’s student.
- Furniture and Home Decor – Students going off to college for the first time often require a major shopping spree to outfit their dorm rooms.
2. MAKE YOUR SITE MOBILE-FRIENDLY
Many back-to-school shoppers interact with their mobile devices at some point during the purchase process – from research to actual purchases. In fact, 60 percent of parents plan to use mobile devices for back to school shopping and 30 percent plan to do at least a quarter of their shopping on mobile, according to Rubicon’s Back to School Survey. This is why it’s crucial for your website to be optimized for mobile, which includes:
- Ensuring your site has a responsive design or has a separate mobile site altogether.
- Adding a rel=”canonical” tag that points to the matching desktop URL on every mobile page on your website.
- Using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to evaluate how mobile-friendly (or not) your site is.
- Analyzing your site speed for both mobile and desktop using Google’s Page Speed Insights.
- Reviewing Google’s list of common mistakes with mobile sites so you can avoid them.
3. REACH CRUCIAL DEMOGRAPHICS
If you have an affiliate program, your affiliates are your most important brand advocates and salespeople. Here are a few important partners for your back-to-school shopping success:
- Mommy Bloggers – Many mommy bloggers are loyally followed by other moms who are making those back-to-school purchases. Most of these bloggers are passionate about saving money and helping others do the same. Offer these bloggers special deals that they can promote to their readers.
- College-Focused Publishers – Many budget-conscious college students are turning to shopping sites such as me, Unidays and Upromise that give them cash back on college-related purchases or special student discounts.
- Fashion Bloggers – Influential fashion bloggers are great partners for connecting with those fashion-forward students.
4. GET SOCIAL
Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook are excellent channels for promoting your special back-to-school offers and discount codes. If you don’t already have them, dedicate a team member to set up and manage your:
- Pinterest account
- Instagram account
- Facebook account
5. CONSIDER STOREFRONTS
Storefronts allow merchants to partner with a variety of organizations who otherwise wouldn’t be involved in affiliate marketing, such as schools and non-profits. A merchant creates a partnership with these types of organizations and sets up a co-branded storefront on their website. When supporters of the organization click on the co-branded Storefront tracking link and make a purchase from the site, the merchant donates a portion of the sale to the school, organization, etc.
Storefronts are a mutually beneficial arrangement as they drive extra business to the merchant and make it easy and fun for schools and other organizations to raise money for their causes.
To learn how storefronts helped one of our clients, a leading retailer of specialty children’s clothing, increase revenue by 67% year-over-year, check out our case study.
6. USE YOUR BLOG
Your blog should be your go-to method for capturing any potentially valuable long-tail keywords. For example, if your site sells apparel and accessories, write a series of blog posts about back-to-school outfits for girls/boys/teens/college students, etc.
7. CREATE A BACK-TO-SCHOOL PORTAL
Given the specific interest in back to school, many sites aggregate their products on a specific back-to-school portal or landing page where people can find relevant products. The same goes for back-to-school deals. Consider creating a page featuring everything on you’re offering on sale that’s back-to-school related.
Ultimately, your back-to-school digital marketing strategies will depend on who your customers are and what they’ll respond do. For more ideas and helpful resources, download our Digital Marketer’s Guide to Back to School e-book.