Remember the excitement around picking out a new backpack, getting the most colorful pens, and even choosing your first day of school outfit? Some children might refer to it as the most exciting time of the year, but many parents are dreading the “back to school” shopping traditions this season. Back-to-school shopping is stressful even in the best economic times and now with economic instability, supply chain disruptions, and a long awaited return to in-class learning; parents are more stressed than ever. This uncertainty has also caused a considerable shift in the shopping habits of this cohort.
According to Deloitte, despite these challenges, there is still an expected increase of 8% in purchasing school supplies compared to this time last year. With a total market size of $34.4B, parents will spend an average of $661 on back to school supplies. Apparel, in particular, is on the rise as school is back to classroom learning and attending various events that have us shifting away from the pandemic lifestyle. In addition, technology products are taking a break from being the most purchased vertical the last 2 years, with a greater emphasis on purchasing traditional school supplies including pens, notebooks, and backpacks. Along with the types of school supplies required changing from last year, the way parents shop has also changed. This has left the marketing industry as a whole wondering, will parents turn to in person shopping or ecommerce for their back to school supplies?
Traditional advertising has become increasingly irrelevant in recent years due to our over consumption of media.There is a huge surge in the use of smartphones and tablets in our day to day lives, a habit created during the pandemic that seems impossible for humans to break. People spend endless hours scrolling through social media or browsing the web and this has changed the way we ultimately consume information and advertising. With the convenience of being able to make purchases from within apps or through their smartphone browsers, consumers can save gas money, stay safe, and shop from the comfort of their own home – and of course not to forget the most valuable asset – time! Businesses should heavily consider shifting focus to leverage social for their back to school marketing in order to reach their consumers because that’s where they are spending time. The average consumer is spending close to 2.5 hours a day on social media daily. This shift is where marketers should take notice; from product discovery, education, comparison and reviews, the social landscape holds the opportunity to capture those looking for promotions, and products this year.
As a whole, ecommerce is expected to hit the trillion dollar mark by the end of this year, forcing businesses to change the ways in which they advertise. Thanks to the pandemic, experts say many brick and mortar stores were forced to close overnight and accelerated online shopping habits by as many as 5 years. In addition, mobile purchasing is expected to increase by 4% within the next 4 years, with the majority of purchasers being in the 25-44 age range. All these trends help marketers to understand that more and more people are relying on the convenience and accessibility that mobile devices and social media have allowed for.
Smartphone shopping has reached its peak usage compared to using a personal computer, with 35% of parents relying solely on social media to make back to school purchases. Over 40% of people who participated in Deloitte’s Back-to-School survey noted they rely on social media to browse products, to read reviews and recommendations, and to find any deals or promotions. With 70% of people admitting they will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know, influencers can be used to your advantage by asking them to review your product to create a trusting relationship between your brand and their loyal following. Influencers leverage their content to share personal thoughts, top trends, and key pieces of advice within a given industry. In regards to back to school shopping, influencers can share the top rated back to school items every parent must buy or their favorite back to school outfits, the possibilities are endless. Consider using influencer affiliate programs as well where influencers are paid a commission based on the clicks or sales they drive towards your brand. Influencer affiliates can be quite beneficial to your marketing efforts as they help to build brand awareness and create more authentic content, while gaining access to new audiences.
There has been a significant shift in products being purchased this time around for back to school shopping. Due to the demand in digital learning decreasing when compared to last year, the purchasing of technology products has dropped 8%. On the other hand, there is an 18% rise in clothing and accessories because children are heading back to the classrooms and need to dress appropriately (That’s right, no more pjs on zoom calls!). Another trend that seems to be on the rise is including covid-related items in children’s backpacks. With a total purchase increase of 7%, face masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves are all personal protective equipment parents are adding to their shopping lists this year. While schools return to in person learning, focus on making your brand conscious of physical safety and financial concerns. Think about releasing “top shopping lists” or “essentials for back-to-school shopping” to bring additional value to your consumers and show that you are thinking of them.
What’s the benefit of collaborating with influencers? For starters, they bring a level of authenticity that is unmatched. Followers are able to discover and purchase products that have already been tried and thoroughly reviewed by influencers they love and trust. Influencers allow a brand to speak to a variety of audiences at a large scale with a more seamless form of communication to help build stronger relationships. Not only do these new relationships benefit sales, but influencers can help drive brand awareness and create a sense of loyalty and trust that might have been missing before investing in them. Purchasing a product from an influencer can also have a ripple effect in more ways than one. On one hand, the consumer shares the new product with a friend or group of friends, who then goes and purchases it for themselves because they trust them and have maybe heard of the influencer that persuaded the purchase in the first place. On the other hand, the original consumer will trust the influencer even more than they did before the purchase because they love their new product and have begun to form a relationship with the influencer, allowing them to rely on that influencer for upcoming purchasing decisions.
Another value social media and influencers bring to the industry is being able to drive people directly to your ecommerce store. So many shoppers are turning to emerging retail technology, especially surrounding features like shoppable content, live video streaming, and “buy” buttons on social media posts. Using attribution modeling, businesses are able to see what types of influencer posts drove the most traffic and to which product. This will optimize marketing spend and give marketers insights to put more budget into the products that earn the most engagements. It can also increase ROI by educating marketers on how to reach the right consumer, at the right time, with the right message. Attribution modeling can help determine which post should be used in a paid advertisement. Let’s say a post was extremely successful based on a variety of key performance indicators and you want to now reach thousands of people that would resonate with that same post as well. You can use that post and turn it into a paid ad that will attract a much larger audience and drive an immense amount of traffic to your product. This will allow your brand to target a whole new audience and convert them to customers.
Attribution modeling can also promote an improved personalized customer journey where businesses understand the messaging and channels preferred by each customer and push that out towards them. Personalization in marketing can drive repeat engagement and brand loyalty over a period of time. It’s important to keep the following two things in mind: the use of social media differs based on generation and priorities have greatly shifted this year. For example, millennials tend to use their platforms to look for advice and reviews on a product, while Gen X users seek out deals and promotions. Priorities of consumers shifting include prioritizing free shipping for over 75% of people surveyed, and 26% of those people expecting their products to be delivered within 2 days. 77% of parents worried about how expensive items have become said they will trade to less well-known brands if prices are lower. All of this information allows businesses to use influencers to gain a better understanding of their buyer personas and then target specific demographics and behaviours to address their needs and concerns.
All in all, focus on digital marketing around popular products that every parent is thinking about buying. It is important to emphasize how your brand is conscious of the return to in-person learning and keeping children healthy, all while keeping costs low. Incorporate influencers into marketing programs wherever possible to help drive engagement, reach a new audience, increase trust and create those relationships that all consumers desire.