Back-to-School Marketing is In Session

For most students, the dog days of summer are in full swing. For many online marketers, however, it’s prep-time for those back-to-school campaigns. To help you ace your campaign planning, we’ve provided you with a few helpful, tips, tricks and trends to add to your list: 

Average back-to-school start dates vary by state. For example:

  • Gilbert Public Schools, AZ – August 2nd 2017
  • State of Hawaii – August 7th 2017
  • Anchorage, Alaska – August 21st, 2017
  • Miami-Dade – August 21st 2017
  • San Francisco – August 21st 2017
  • Dallas, TX – August 28th, 2017
  • Missoula, MT – August 28th 2017
  • Baltimore, MD – September 5th 2017
  • Seattle – September 6th 2017
  • New York City – September 7, 2017

Since back-to-school start dates vary across the United States, it is recommended to start communicating with your affiliate publishers in early July (i.e. now) to learn what promotional opportunities and placement packages are available. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm.

Back-to-school and college spending ranks as the second biggest shopping season for retailers, after the winter holidays. As such, a majority of students and parents will receive their back-to-school shopping list at least one month before school starts. What’s more is that parents plan to purchase from an average of three websites to meet their kids’ back-to-school shopping needs, according to the National Retail Federation.

The number of retailers promoting back-to-school campaigns is substantial. As such, it’s important to get your creative cap on and come up with offers, content or contests that your publishing partners will get excited about. It’s these unique opportunities that will help your brand stay competitive and top-of-mind. Here are a few more ideas:

  • If sponsored posts or a paid placement budget is not available, explore limited-time commission increases or bonus opportunities for publishers.
  • Repurpose campaigns from other channels to communicate your back-to-school content and promotional offers through the affiliate channel.
  • Encourage your partners to post on all their social platforms. And, to avoid being sent to the principal’s office, make sure that all your publishing partners’ posts include the proper FTC disclosures front and center.

Turns out, there are five key product areas that get serious business during the back-to-school season. According to and our own personal client experience, these are:

  1. Apparel and accessories
  2. Books, music and video
  3. Computers and consumer electronics
  4. Office equipment and supplies
  5. Toys and hobbies, including sporting goods

Back-to-school ecommerce sales in these core categories during July and August are expected to exceed the quarterly growth rate for ecommerce overall, reaching $37.56 billion. What’s also interesting is that, despite the impressive role that dorm shopping plays in back-to-school sales, home goods sectors don’t usually see a significant bump in sales during the season.

Here are a few more fun stats from eMarketer, Deloitte, the National Retail Federation:

  •  US retail sales during July and August are anticipated to reach an estimated $857.18 billion,
    accounting for 17.0 percent of total retail sales for the year.
  • Ecommerce for the back-to-school season will likely grow 14.8 percent to $74.03 billion in 2017. That represents 8.6 percent of total back-to-school retail sales—online and offline—for the period, up from the 7.8 percent share last year.
  • Consumers who shop earlier, spend more. A Deloitte study shows that shoppers starting before August spend 26 percent more than those beginning in August. What’s more is that, on average, parents will spend $488 for clothing, accessories, school supplies, computers and other electronics for their children.
  • 84 percent of parents won’t purchase online without free shipping. 

Stay ahead of the back-to-school bell curve this school year by preparing your plan well-ahead of back-to-school marketing season; don’t campaign cram right when the season starts.

For help on your strategy and ideas for creative campaign creation, reach out to our affiliate marketing team.

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