Back-to-School Marketing Ideas to Ace the 2022 Shopping Season
The back-to-school season is upon us. It’s a time of new beginnings for those going back to learning or teaching, and a busy time for business owners.
To be able to provide the right product at the right time, preparations need to be made in advance. Now’s the time to start generating back-to-school marketing ideas and refreshing your product catalog, and we’re here to help.
As an added bonus, we’ve created free vector files that you can download at the end of this post and use in your back-to-school promos or product designs.But before we get to the practical part, let’s look at some graphs and stats to understand why the back-to-school season is such an excellent opportunity to both turn a profit and build a loyal customer base.
2022 back-to-school spending forecast
The back-to-school shopping season is huge because it involves everyone from back-to-kindergarten to back-to-college. It’s also back-to-school for parents and caregivers and back-to-teaching for educators. It’s the second-largest shopping season behind Black Friday and Christmas.
The expected back-to-school spending per household in the US has gradually increased over the last 2 years to reach $848.90 per household in 2021. Total back-to-school spending is at an all-time high according to the National Retail Federation’s survey history. It’s expected to reach a record $37.1 billion. The total expected spending is even higher for those returning to college—a staggering $71.0 billion.
It’s worth adding that it’s not just adults doing the shopping. The students themselves are also getting in on the action: in 2021, the average US teen spent $46.46 of their own money on back-to-school goodies (see the image below).
Regarding what people are buying: clothing is among the top 3 things to spend money on for those going back to school and college.
How can you take advantage of this? Browse our extensive apparel range to see what you can offer your audience. Consider designing something unique that helps customers stand out this new school year, or think about current trends that you could incorporate into your collections.
If you’re going to freshen up your offering this back-to-school school season, investing some time in back-to-school marketing is a must. Let’s look at when is the time to do so.
When does the back-to-school season start?
Early July is when most online retailers start planning back-to-school promotions. After two years of uncertainty and hybrid learning, parents, caregivers, kids, and teachers will be looking for products to make this new school year special.
If you’re targeting customers all around the globe, be mindful of the school year start date differences in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Here’s when school starts:
- United States—from mid-July to mid-September, depending on the state
- Canada—early September
- Mexico—end of August
- Germany— between late July and early September
- France—beginning of September
- Italy—beginning of September
- Brazil—first week of February
- New Zealand, Australia—January, February
- Japan—April 1
As for back-to-school shopping, the graph below shows when shoppers plan to do their shopping for the 2022–2023 school year. The most active time for shoppers is from late July till early August.
What does it mean for you? Start preparing back-to-school products, campaigns, and other incentives today. The earlier you jump on the bandwagon, the more people you can expect to snap up back-to-school essentials and engage with your brand!
So let’s find out how customers are doing their back-to-school shopping.
Where do people buy school supplies?
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), online shopping remains a top choice for both back-to-school (48%) and back-to-college shoppers (43%).
This means you have tons of potential customers to connect with. Now on to how to reach them.
As we said, this season is an excellent opportunity to make money while also building a loyal customer base. To do both, you’ll need a high-quality product and the ability to reach consumers in an engaging way.
Why is it essential to build a solid customer base that knows and trusts you? For a couple of reasons:
- It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one
- An existing customer is more likely to try new products and spend more money compared to new customers
- Customers who know you are more likely to engage in word-of-mouth marketing (this is more effective than traditional marketing because people trust their friends and family more than they trust brands)
So, how can you reach your audience and lay the groundwork for good relationships for years to come?
1. Meet consumers’ needs
Going into the new school year looks different for everyone. Although most students have gone back to full-time, in-person learning, some still face a hybrid system of remote/in-person learning.
Keep this in mind when creating your products and marketing them. Show how your products can benefit students and meet their specific needs. Personalize a range of different products, like backpacks (for going to class) and mouse pads (for at-home learning).
There are two ways you can make sure you reach as many people as possible:
- Personalize products that all students, regardless of their study environment, would find useful (notebooks, drawstring bags, phone cases, etc.)
- Create separate collections customizing the most suitable products for different needs
Many students also start new athletics programs or need updated gear for gym class. Offer products from our sportswear or streetwear collections to spice up their wardrobe as the new year approaches. Check out adidas’ back-to-school campaign for inspiration.
Bottom line—regardless of who you’re targeting, think about their day-to-day life and what products could bring the most value or joy to your audience.
We’ve got some suggestions for helping you choose the right products to offer.
2. Adding the right products
Certain products are especially relevant to the back-to-school season. Keep reading for which products work best for different back-to-school groups.
Your soon-to-be bestsellers
For all students:
For the K-12 segment:
For the back-to-college segment:
Educators are going back to school too. Spark their interest with:
Seeing as clothes are the second most popular category people plan to spend their money on, be sure to add apparel to your catalog. Here are our suggestions:
Add accessories as well:
Our suggestions cover a small part of the custom products you can offer. Browse our catalog to find what will resonate with your audience.
Here are a few collections to get you started:
It’s also a great idea to offer your customers the possibility for customization. Offering personalized options increases perceived service quality, customer satisfaction, customer trust, and customer loyalty. It also enables you to get user-generated content (UGC).
Check out our video on UGC to learn what it is, why it’s important for online store owners, how to repurpose it, and more. Sharing UGC on social media makes loyal consumers feel valued, celebrated, and connected. That, in turn, elevates the trustworthiness of your brand to potential customers.
Now, on to promoting the products you’ve picked.
3. Back-to-school promotion
Back-to-school shopping can be overwhelming for several reasons. Not only do customers have a lot of boxes to tick off their shopping list, but they also have to decide which brands are worth their time and money.
How do they decide? Well, getting good deals is important for most back-to-school shoppers.
With this in mind, creating a back-to-school sale that’s clear and easy for customers to take advantage of is a good idea.
Once you’ve chosen which products to add to your store, evaluate what type of offer you can afford and present it to your audience. If you’re short on ideas for back-to-school promotions, here are a few to help you get started:
- free shipping
- bundle deals
- flash sales
- promo codes
- % or $ discounts
- photo competitions
- quizzes or trivia contests
- week-long sales events
- loyal customer discounts
- loyal customer pre-sales
Here are some great examples to get inspiration from:
- A solid promo code
- A useful bundle deal: buy one, get the second half off
- An exciting flash sale
- A cool photo competition
4. Social media contests
If you’ve been with us for a while, you know social media is a potent marketing tool. That’s why you should use it to your advantage to drum up back-to-school sales.
Organizing contests is one of the fastest ways to engage your audience and increase brand awareness. A win-win. It activates interest much more than a regular social media post.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Photo Contest
- Write-a-caption contest
- Tag-a-friend contest
- Pick-a-favorite-product contest
- Trivia contest
- A gift giveaway
Remember to be mindful of different social networks’ rules and regulations regarding contests.
Here are a few examples:
Also, if you’re collecting data like email addresses, be aware that you’ll be collecting private information from individuals. Ensure you’re following any data privacy laws that apply (e.g., GDPR for European customers).
5. Free shipping
Whether you offer special promotions or not, remember that nearly all customers value free shipping.
Tip: Back-to-school isn’t a spending occasion when everyone needs to get their purchases by a specific day. However, you can combine some promotions (discounts or special offers) with shipping deadlines to incentivize your customers to start shopping.
Make sure to let your email list know about your back-to-school promos, too; they’ll appreciate the heads-up!
Read our blog on Email Copywriting Tips to nail your emails. Craft punchy subject lines, concise copy, and a clear call to action.
Tip: Don’t send just one email and hope for the best—schedule a few emails with copy and subject line variations, and repromote them to recipients who didn’t open your email the first time.
7. Create valuable back-to-school content on social media
Not everything you do should be geared towards conversion. In addition to showcasing your products and promoting your deals, create helpful content to make the start of this joyful but stressful season easier for those taking part in it. It doesn’t have to be anything huge and can be as simple as 5 easy tips.
If your customers are parents or carers, share ideas on how to get the kids ready and excited about a new school year. It can be anything from fun school outfits to easy lunch box recipes or even tips on overcoming shyness.
If you’re trying to reach college students, cover topics that can help prepare them for life on campus, like time management or decorating their rooms. For example, maybe there are lessons from your own experience that you could craft into clever study tips for students?
Here are a few more back-to-school content ideas you can experiment with on social media:
- Back-to-school shopping list
- Room organization tips
- Creative lunchbox ideas
- After-school activities
- Productivity tips
- Fun DIY projects
While some topics might not be directly related to your store, writing about them will help you connect with your target audience. The more valuable your free content is, the more likely your audience is to check out your store.
8. Engage your audience
Once you’ve created useful content, it’s important to interact with users. Ask your followers to share their back-to-school experiences with your brand. That way, you’ll build trust and strengthen your following, which is crucial for a loyal customer base. Remember, it’s easier to retain existing customers than it is to capture new ones.
Here are a few ideas of what your audience can share:
- First day of school outfits
- Favorite school supplies
- Classroom setups
- Remote learning setups
Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and start your back-to-school campaigns. Add seasonal products to your store, craft your deal and promotional materials, and help others get into the spirit of back-to-school. Use our free vector files to help share your message—download them below!
This article was originally published in July 2018; it has since been updated.
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