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5 Things You Can Do for the Back to School Shopping Season

By Nora Inveiss - Reading time: 3 minutes

Although we might not like to think about it, the summer doesn’t last forever. With just the month of August left, autumn will be here before you know it. And that means it’s time for kids to get back to school, and for retailers to get ready for the back to school shopping season.

Families are looking to buy stuff for the new school year. They want to stock up on clothing, school supplies, electronics, and whatever else their kids need for the year ahead.

Did you know that the back to school shopping season is the second biggest spending occasion after the winter holidays? The back to school industry is expected to reach a value of $75.8 billion this year – up from $68 billion in 2015.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average back to school shopper expects to spend a total of $674 this year, up from $630 in 2015. Out of that total, $235.39 will go to apparel.

In fact, the two biggest shopping categories during back to school are electronics and apparel.

NRF chart 1Source: https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-data/back-school-headquarters

According to a 2015 survey conducted by Deloitte, 44% of respondents said they planned to shop online for back to school supplies. That’s compared to 20% in 2012.

Online shopping is growing, but according to that same survey, shopping for products in brick-and-mortar stores is still the preferred method for respondents, at 86%. So while there is potential at online sales, competition is stiff and retailers should plan on promotions and marketing campaigns. 

Here are some things you can do to get your store ready, backed by survey data. 

1. Back to school sale/promotion

Although back to school spending has gone up since last year, shoppers are still looking for good bargains. Run a back to school sale or promotion to incentivize more purchases. 

back to school sale

Free shipping is a big selling factor – 80% of NRF survey respondents say they plan on taking advantage of free shipping deals. If you don’t want to discount your products, offering free shipping could still drive sales. 

2. Be smart on mobile

More people are using their mobile phones to browse and shop online. In 2015, the split between back to school shoppers using mobile and desktop was even, at 50/50.

Bigger purchases still take place on desktop more often (likely because it’s easier to see pictures).

According to Deloitte’s 2016 back to school survey:

  • 64% of respondents say they use their mobile devices to access a retailer’s website
  • 61% use mobile for price information
  • 56% use mobile to get online coupons

So whatever your promotions and sales, make sure they’re easily viewable and downloadable on mobile. And if it’s not already, make sure your store is optimized for mobile use. 

3. Social media strategy

It’s important to be active on social media regardless of the shopping season. And back to school is no different.

25% of Deloitte survey respondents said they planned on using social media for their back to school shopping. Of those people:

  • 74% said they’ll use social media to find promotions and ads
  • 64% will use social media to receive coupons
  • 45% will use social media to browse products

Run a social media contest or giveaway. And experiment with paid ad campaigns – take a look at this blog post for more info on Facebook ads.

4. Who’s your audience?

Think of what kids and college students will need going back to school. Tailor your promotions and initiatives around those. Think items like t-shirts, phone cases, socks, posters, and hoodies. 

And remember that it’s not just parents that are calling the shots – kids have a say in their shopping, too. For 75% of parents, half of their back to school shopping decisions are influenced by their kids. Think of them as your audience – create designs and products that’ll they’ll like, not just their parents.

5. Remember shipping deadlines

Keep Printful’s fulfilment time and shipping in mind when you’re coordinating your promotions and campaigns. These are the order-by dates if customers want to be their products by September.

Aug 12 w/ USPS Priority Mail Int’l
Aug 18 w/ FedEx Int’l Economy
Aug 22 w/ FedEx Int’l Priority

Aug 11 w/ Standard Shipping
Aug 22 w/ FedEx Int’l Economy
Aug 24 w/ FedEx Int’l Priority

Aug 17 w/ USPS
Aug 22 w/ FedEx Express Saver
Aug 23 w/ FedEx 2 Day
Aug 24 w/ FedEx Standard Overnight

74% of back to school shopping is completed before September starts, so get started now! Run a back to school sale and promote it through social media contests and ad campaigns. Offer free shipping, and create stuff that appeals to the back to school aged crowd. 

Class dismissed!

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