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

By Reading Time: 4 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, the second biggest spending occasion after the winter holidays.

Families are looking to stock up on clothing, school supplies, electronics, and whatever else their kids need for the year ahead. This bodes well for the back to school industry, it’s expected to reach an all-time high of $83.6 billion this year – up from $75.8 billion in 2016.

So settle down and take out your pencils, time for a quick lesson in back to school marketing.

According to the National Retail Federationthe average back to school shopper expects to spend a total of $687.72 this year, up from $673.57 in 2016. Out of that total, $238.89 will go to apparel.

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


Online shopping is growing, but according to a 2017 survey conducted by Deloitte, shopping for back to school products in brick-and-mortar stores is still the preferred method for respondents.

For school supplies and apparel, more than 60% of the respondents named In-store as the preferred purchase method, leaving the other 40% split between Online shopping and Undecided.

That means the competition’s stiff and while there’s potential for online sales, retailers should plan targeted promotional campaigns to get to the Undecided crowd.

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 huge selling factor – a whopping 90,5% 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 devices to browse and shop online. This is the breakdown for 2017: desktop/laptop 57%, mobile 49%, tablet 22%. 

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

According to Deloitte’s 2017 back to school survey:

  • 58% of mobile users say they use their device to access a retailer’s website
  • 61% use mobile for price information
  • 61% 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.

27% of Deloitte survey respondents said they planned on using social media for their back to school shopping. Of those people:

  • 75% said they’ll use social media to find promotions and ads
  • 64% will use social media to receive coupons
  • 43% will use social media to browse products

Promote your sale or discount. 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 their products to arrive by late August – early September.

31/07 – USPS Parcel Select
01/08 – FedEx Smart Post
02/08 – DHL Expedited
03/08 – FedEx Ground
03/08 – USPS First Class Mail
07/08 – USPS Priority Mail
08/08 – FedEx 2Day
09/08 – FedEx Standard Overnight

31/07 – Int’l Economy with tracking
01/08 – FedEx International Ground
07/08 – FedEx International Economy
09/08 – FedEx International Priority

Note on international orders: they can’t be guaranteed to arrive in a specific window due to customs controls, etc. To make sure international orders arrive on time, they should be made 2-3 weeks ahead.

Class dismissed

If your products aren’t necessarily made for the back to school/back to college crowd, see if there’s anything else you can do to be a part of the back to school vibe.

There’s always a teacher in search for their new favorite coffee mug or a nostalgic parent who’d like to relive their dramatic high school years with an old-school tee. It’s all about that creative spin.

Here’s to a new [school] year!

Your new and improved marketing strategy is a click away! Download our eBook for more tips: 

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

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  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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