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back to school season preparation
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6 Things You Can Do for the Back to School Shopping Season [Free Vector Files Inside]

By Reading Time: 5 minutes

Although we might not like to think about it, the summer doesn’t last forever.

Autumn will be here before you know it, and that means it’s time for students to go back to school. And for online retailers, it’s time to start planning back to school promotions, since parents and kids will be on the lookout for supplies they’ll need for the year ahead.

The back to school shopping season is no joke – it’s actually the second-biggest shopping occasion after the winter holidays.

Back to school spending was predicted to reach $29.5 billion in 2017, with back to college spending at $54.1 billion. These are the highest numbers since the post-recession spending spree in 2012.

Historical back to school Data
 Source: National Retail Federation

Elementary- and college-age kids have different back to school needs. People starting college typically spend more on electronics, textbooks, and dorm room gear. But clothing and electronics remain the top two spending categories for both groups.

 Source: Deloitte

Another difference is where back to school and back to college kids shop. Most back to school shopping takes place at department stores. But a similar percentage from both groups shops online.

back to school shopping
 Source: National Retail Federation

The point is, students (and their parents) are looking to stock up on clothing, school supplies, electronics, and anything else they’ll need for the year ahead. And a large number of these back to school shoppers will flock to online stores.

So it’s time to get your store ready for the back to school crowd! These are 6 things you can do to prepare your store for students.

BONUS: we’ve got free vector files that you can download at the end of this post. Feel free to use them in all of your promos.

Back to School Sale

You know consumers are primed to spend for back to school stuff, so nudge them in the right direction with an irresistible deal or promotion!

Calculate what you can afford and then think of a promotion you can offer without eating your profits.

Consider offering free shipping. 90% of NRF survey respondents say they plan on taking advantage of free shipping deals, so this is clearly a popular promo choice.

You can also plan a flash sale, a storewide sale on all products or select fall products, giveaways, coupon code, etc.

Promote your Deal

Let everyone know about your back-to-school deal! The obvious ways to do this are through social media and email.

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% say to receive coupons, 45% say to browse products.

Share your deal on social media to get the word out. Use paid posts on Facebook to reach a wider audience. Not sure how to do that? Read this for everything you need to know about Facebook Ads.

Of course, you don’t want to forget about email marketing. Let your email list know about your back to school promotion; chances are they’ll be happy to get a heads-up.

SV back to school

Here’s an example of a campaign Startup Vitamins ran around the back-to-school season to promote their book of startup quotes. Seeing a deadline of September 1st helps create a sense of urgency and motivates people to buy before the sale is up.

Be Smart on Mobile

According to a Deloitte survey, desktop is still the preferred method for making a purchase – 60% of respondents use a desktop to buy and 45% use a mobile device.

But in the same survey, respondents are more likely to use mobile to collect discounts and sales (61%), and learn price information (also 61%).

So while most consumers will ultimately purchase on desktop, there’s a good chance they’ll find you on mobile first. That’s why all of your promotions, and your website itself, need to be mobile-friendly.

How do you do that?

First, use Google’s mobile-friendly test page to see if your site passes muster and how much you need to improve. You can also test by opening your store and making a purchase on different mobile devices and tablets.

  • Use responsive design. This means that elements of your design will scale down seamlessly on smaller devices.
  • If you use pop-ups for mobile, make sure they meet Google’s guidelines for mobile-friendliness.
  • Just like on your desktop, loading speed is super important on mobile. Avoid using heavy file sizes that can slow things down.

All of your ads and your store itself should be fully functioning on mobile to ensure a smooth customer experience.

Sell Seasonal Products

Think of what kids going back to school need, and tailor your promotions and initiatives around those. Here are some ideas:

But the hottest product this season? Backpacks.

This is THE time of the year to buy a new backpack, so promote the heck out of them on your store.

If you don’t already sell them, now’s the time! Printful backpacks have tons of customization options, they’re durable, water-resistant, and have a built-in laptop sleeve and other pockets.

And don’t forget about the back to college segment! For them, you can also think dorm room supplies – posters, pillows, mugs, and towels.

Partner with Influencers

A great way to promote your products to a wider audience is to partner with an influencer, AKA a respected, popular social media figure with a dedicated fanbase.

Influencer marketing helps expose your product to a whole new audience. An endorsement from a respected member of the community can go a long way – 68% of consumers trust online opinions of other consumers. Positioning your brand with an influencer makes you more credible and trustworthy.

back to school influencer marketing

The back to school season is an ideal time to partner with an influencer who caters to parents of young kids. You’ll have to do your research to find an influencer who is a good fit and whose audience would be interested in your products. This is critical – you don’t want to waste an influencer’s time or your time going after a lead that won’t work.

If done right, a sponsored post from an influencer can help put your products on the map. Use these tools to help connect with the right person:

Remember Shipping Deadlines

Keep Printful’s fulfilment time and shipping in mind when you’re coordinating your promotions and campaigns.

Our average fulfillment time for apparel products is 2-7 business days, and then you have to factor in shipping to calculate the total time it’ll take for orders to reach your customers.

Unlike Christmas, back to school isn’t a spending occasion where everyone needs to get their stuff by a certain day. It’s OK for orders to arrive after the year has started. But if your customers want their products beforehand, let them know when is the last day they can order via email or social media.

Class Dismissed

The lesson’s over and school’s about to start! Take a cue from this scout troop that it’s time to get to work: 

Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and get cracking on your back to school campaigns! 

Craft your deal and promotional materials, add seasonal products to your store, and spread the word! Remember that school shopping doesn’t just end in September. Send customers promos throughout the year to remind them of your existence when they need to buy new swag!

Use our free vector files to help share your message – download below!

Get Your Visuals

Subscribe to our blog and get a bundle of Back-to-School vector files.

Nora covers all things ecommerce for the Printful blog. She appreciates good dad jokes, new books, freshly baked cookies, and evening jogs.
  1. Carol

    Would have been more helpful to show products that are good back to school products with pictures to inspire your clients to make something you used up all my time with the big hype but you didn’t give me anything to really buy into

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Thanks for the feedback! We’ll keep it in mind for next time. Ultimately the products and designs that are good for back to school depend on your audience. T-shirts are pretty universal. But if your target market is college students, for example, you could offer up posters as dorm room decor. There are a lot of possibilities!

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