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Marketers Strategize To Make The Grade This Back-To-School Season

It is hard to believe but the vacation is about over for millions of school aged youth. With many school districts opting to open schools in mid-August, the second largest shopping season of the year is in full swing.

Second only to the Christmas holiday, the back-to-school shopping season accounts for more than $72.5 billion in retail sales. Successful marketers needed to get out in front of the competition this year and debut their programs as early as July. Research shows that 75 percent of shoppers begin preparing online for their shopping activities three to four weeks before school starts. Tablets, computers, mobile computing devices, back-to-school apparel and school supplies top the list as the most popular items of interest for most students. When it comes to shopping for college, students begin shopping for dorm furnishings, bedding, refrigerators and decor items in the spring of the previous academic year and peak in mid-July.

The Internet accounts for 36 percent of shopper dollars, with more than 55 percent of parents looking to go online for back-to-school bargains. Mobile technology is making its presence felt at traditional brick and mortar retailers this year, with 78 percent of smartphone owners using their devices to lead them to back-to-school shopping ideas and bargains at specialty stores, big box retailers and small retailers.

The most popular offers consumers are looking for include price discounts, coupons, rebates and free shipping for online purchases. Some retailers are kicking off their season with a day similar to “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday,” the two biggest holiday shopping days of the year. Digital marketing success will include product listing ads and ad extensions that make finding the retailer easier. Key marketing strategies include: creating programs that think outside the box; extend discounts and loss-leader bargains beyond the start of school; and making an appeal to the younger consumer by “going mobile.” Parents and students alike will be mobile-searching the web to determine in-stock status of their favorite products and which among all the competition have the best deals.

Old Navy has unleased their “out of the box” advertising challenge to competitors with a new quirky music video called, “Unlimited,” which is designed to appeal to the teen-age target audience. The online video seeks to build on Old Navy’s past success from a series of TV spots. The video managed to score nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube in the first week of release. The campaign also includes in-store and digital marketing collateral and a social component tie-in with the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Target is also choosing a social component to kick-off its back-to-school marketing campaign to increase awareness of its “Up & Up” brand of schools supplies. The retailer will give one Up & Up brand school-supply product to a student in need for each Up & Up school supply purchased. It hopes to donate $25 million of the brand of school supplies to the Kids In Need Foundation. If Target reaches its objective, it will be the largest single donation the retailer has ever made. The program will be supported with TV and print ads as well as social media messages featuring progress milestones on the way to its goal.

As back-to-school gets underway, which retailer will make the grade for the best marketing strategy? The results will be in just in time to kick-off the holiday seasons!