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Back-to-School Marketing Ideas to Lead the 2023 Shopping Season Sales

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Anyone in the retail industry understands the importance of capitalizing on the back-to-school shopping frenzy. Depending on who you ask, this potential sales increase is the second or third largest in a calendar year.

And, while things have changed since COVID disrupted normalcy in last 2-3 years, back to school 2023 is set to make a comeback, with schools reopening and both parents and kids eagerly preparing for in-class education experience after a year's slumber. 

Parents are planning ahead of time for back-to-school 2023, anticipating high demand and supply chain issues later in the season. According to a recent KPMG survey, online shopping will continue to gain popularity and will be primarily driven by higher income groups, while lower income families will prefer to make in-store purchases.

As consumer shopping patterns continue to shift this year, retailers will need to reconsider their back to school marketing strategies, focusing on an omnichannel approach to attract customers from both online and in-store channels.

Back-to-school season has arrived. It's a time of new beginnings for those returning to school or teaching, as well as a busy time for business owners.

Preparation is required in order to provide the right product at the right time. It's time to start thinking about back-to-school marketing ideas and updating your product catalog, and we've gathered prosper insights with examples in this article.

Read more: Ecommerce Holidays Every Shopify Merchant Must Know (2023 Updated)


I. What's The Back To School Season

01. Definition

With summers coming to an end, the start of school and colleges in the United States has arrived! With each passing new year! A large number of new students are enrolling in schools and colleges. Schools in the United States, as well as other parts of the world, take a long summer break and reopen in the months of August and September. This is the Back to School or First Day of School season.

What makes this even more intriguing is that the timeline for reopening these schools varies by state in the United States.

The back-to-school shopping season is massive because it includes everyone from kindergarten to college. It's also back-to-school season for parents and caregivers, as well as back-to-teaching season for educators. After Black Friday and Christmas, it is the second-largest shopping season.

Back to school stats

Most online retailers begin planning back-to-school promotions in early July. Parents, caregivers, students, and teachers will be looking for products to make this new school year special after two years of uncertainty and hybrid learning.

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If you want to reach shoppers all over the world, keep in mind the start dates in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. When does school start?

  • United States—from mid-July to mid-September, depending on the state
  • Canada—early September
  • Mexico—end of August
  • Spain—mid-September
  • 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
Back to school shopping stats

What does this necessarily mean for you? Begin planning back-to-school products, campaigns, and other incentives right away. The earlier you get on board, the more people you can expect to buy back-to-school supplies and engage with your brand!

02. Statistics

Slightly fall back to 2021, Back-to-school spending in the United States is expected to increase gradually over the next two years, reaching $848.90 per household in 2021. According to the National Retail Federation's survey data, total back-to-school spending is at an all-time high. It is expected to reach a new high of $37.1 billion. The total expected spending for those returning to college is even higher—a whopping $71.0 billion.

Back to school stats

It's worth noting that not only adults go shopping. Students are also participating: in 2021, the average US teen spent $46.46 of their own money on back-to-school supplies.

back to school stats

Source: Statista

03. Why the hype

A large number of students are enrolling in schools, looking for school supplies and other necessities, and guess what? A significant portion of this occurs online.

This makes it all worthwhile as the new generation searches for amazing discounts and offers in stores to make purchases! Every year, the sales and spending of the US household have increased year after year.

However, in the previous ten years, 2018 was the best year, with US households spending an average of $688 on school supplies and an average of $970 on Back to College Supplies.

04. What are the purchases

  • Apparel
  • Electronic Devices
  • Shoes
  • School Supplies

Various discussions have led to the conclusion that customers' Back to School shopping intentions and purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by their children.

When such a scenario occurs, it is critical to develop strategies that entice children to purchase your products.

Back to school spend in the US by category

05. How can merchants benefit from it

Back to School planning becomes extremely important as this sales season brings in massive traffic to your stores, and in order to deal with it, strategic planning is a must!

Read more: Get Your eCommerce Store Ready For Online Holiday Sales: A Master Guide

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Check out our tutorials on how to create a super Flash Sale section for Back to School Day:

II. How To Prepare Yourself/ Drive Sales For Back To School Season

01. Meet consumers’ needs

Everyone's outlook on the new school year is different. Although the majority of kids have returned to full-time, in-person learning, some continue to face a hybrid system of remote/in-person learning.

Keep this in mind as you design and market your products. Demonstrate how your products can help students and meet their specific needs. Personalize a variety of products, such as backpacks (for going to class) and mouse pads (for at-home learning).

You can ensure that you reach as many people as possible in two ways:

  • Create must-have products that are useful to all students, regardless of their study environment (notebooks, drawstring bags, phone cases, etc.)
  • Create distinct collections by tailoring the best products to specific needs.

Many students also begin new athletic programs or require updated gym equipment. As the new year approaches, offer products from our sportswear or streetwear collections to spice up their wardrobe. For ideas, look no further than adidas' back-to-school sales campaign.

Adidas back to school clothes and shoes

Source: adidas

Also, consider what you can offer parents, caregivers, and teachers in addition to students. Perhaps a new tote bag or coffee mug?

Bottom line, regardless of who you're targeting, consider their daily lives and what products could add the most value or joy to their lives.

We have some ideas to help you choose the right products to sell.

02. Adding the right products

Certain products are particularly appropriate for the back-to-school season. Continue reading to learn which products are best for various back-to-school groups.

Your soon-to-be bestsellers

For all students:

  • Spiral notebooks
  • Water bottles
  • Phone cases
  • Hair accessories
  • Gym bags
Adding the right products

Source: Printful & @beatrizlina

For the K-12 segment'S SCHOOL SUPPLIES:

  • Stickers
  • Embroidered patches
  • Drawstring bags
  • Embroidered backpacks
  • AOP (all-over print) backpacks

Source: Printful

For the back-to-college SCHOOL SALES:

  • Framed posters and canvas prints
  • Pillow cases and blankets
  • Towels
  • Flags
  • Large mouse pads

Source: Printful

Educators are going back to school too. Spark their interest with:

  • Mugs
  • Tote bags
  • Laptop sleeves
  • Matching staff t-shirts

Source: @louandmimii & @thelittleredbaloonshop 

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:

  • Unisex Joggers
  • AOP unisex hoodie
  • Unisex Heavy Blend Hoodie
  • Crew Neck Sweatshirt
  • Leggings
Apparels for back to school

Source: Printful & @peaceloverclothing

Add accessories as well:

  • Footwear
  • Fanny packs
  • Beanies
  • Bucket hats
  • Baseball caps

Source: Printful

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:

  • Back-to-school
  • Fall & winter
  • Sportswear
  • Streetwear
  • Loungewear

03. Back-to-school shopping promotion

Back-to-school shopping can be stressful for a variety of reasons. Customers must not only check off a lot of boxes on their shopping list, but they must also decide which brands are worth their time and money.

How do they make their decision? Getting good deals is important for the majority of back-to-school shoppers.

Back to school shopping promotion

Source: Rakuten Advertising

With this in mind, organizing a clear and simple back-to-school sale for customers to take advantage of is a good idea.

Once you've decided which products to add to your store, consider what kind of offer you can make and present it to your target audience. If you're stuck for back-to-school promotion ideas, here are a few to get you started:

  • free shipping
  • bundle deals
  • flash sales
  • polls
  • contests
  • giveaways
  • 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 solid promo code

Source: cottoneer IG

  • A useful bundle deal: buy one, get the second half off
  • An exciting flash sale
  • A cool photo competition
A cool photo competition
Source: ismileorthodontics IG

04. Social media contests

If you've been following us for a while, you're aware that social media is a powerful marketing tool. That is why you should take advantage of it to increase back-to-school sales.

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Contests are one of the quickest ways to engage your audience and raise brand awareness. It's a win-win situation. It piques people's interest far more than a typical social media post.

Social media contests
Source: Outgrow

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Photo Contest
Photo contests

Source: deluxebeans’ IG

  • Write-a-caption contest
  • Tag-a-friend contest
  • Pick-a-favorite-product contest 
  • Trivia contest
  • A gift giveaway
Gift giveaways

Source: b2sgiveaway IG

Remember to be mindful of different social networks’ rules and regulations regarding contests. 

Here are a few examples:

Also, be aware that if you collect data such as email addresses, you will be collecting private information from individuals. Check that you are adhering to any applicable data privacy laws (e.g., GDPR for European customers).

05. Free shipping

Whether you offer special promotions or not, remember that nearly all customers value free shipping.

Free shipping

Source: Power Reviews

06. Email 

During peak sales hours, where they find comfort is where they'll stay.

Planning your Back to School sales strategy to develop potential customers along the way can also benefit you in the long run! But how do you do it?

It is now very common to generate an email list from your shoppers in order to keep in touch with them. Customers will remember you if you send them timely offers and marketing emails. So, the next time they're looking for a product to shop, your bond will have a leg up on the competition.

Make sure to let your email list know about your back-to-school promos, too; they’ll appreciate the heads-up!

Email marketing

Source: Nike’s email

07. Create valuable back-to-school content on social media

Not everything you do should be conversion-focused. Create helpful content to help those taking part in this holiday season, in addition to showcasing your products and promoting your deals. It doesn't have to be anything big; it could be as simple as 5 simple tips.

If your customers are parents or caregivers, share ideas for getting the kids ready. It could be anything from cute school outfits to simple lunch box recipes or even advice on how to overcome shyness.

Cover topics that can help prepare college students for life on campus, such as time management and room decorating, if you're trying to reach them. For example, do you have any life lessons that you could turn into clever study tips for students?

Back to school social media content

Source: destinationesquirellc IG

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

08. Engage your audience

It's critical to interact with users after you've created useful content. Solicit feedback from your followers about their back-to-school experiences with your brand. You will gain trust and strengthen your following in this manner, which is essential for a loyal customer base. Remember that retaining existing consumers is easier than acquiring 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

09. Mobile first

It's probably not a surprise that your shoppers are making more purchases on their smartphones than ever before. What might surprise you is how crucial it has become for your e-commerce strategies. According to the same Shopify study from 2018, more than 66 percent of Shopify users made purchases via mobile. This is a great incentive for businesses to optimize their site for mobile if they haven't already.

The COVID-19 pandemic has recently increased the urgency of this priority. E-commerce spending is up more than 30%, and businesses must adapt quickly. Customers want store access on their phones, whether it's for books or beauty products, and this trend is likely to continue as the school year begins.

You can prepare your customers for purchases via mobile devices by developing an app for online purchases. One way to create amazing shopper experiences is to provide an app for seamless purchases. You can also optimize your website for speed, which results in a better mobile experience. You can also ensure that the web hosting company you use is the best option for your mobile users. The good news is that you will not only be ready for back-to-school shoppers, but you will also be improving the overall shopping experience and school sales.

Read more:

10. Multi-channel selling

According to previous research, customers are looking forward to multiple marketplaces in order to search for discounts, price comparisons, and deal lookup! Going multi-channel in this case definitely increases the chances of your product being clicked and sold!

During the Back to School sales, marketplaces such as Walmart and Amazon redesign their product categories to make it easier for your customers to find a product. Eg. Amazon has already reorganized its product categories page by grade level.

Read more: Best Platforms To Sell Online: The Evergreen List (+ Hidden Gem)

III. Conclusion

There are numerous other ways to prepare for the upcoming Back to School sales. Depending on the size of your company and the type of product niche. Many merchants agreed that they began planning for Back to School sales only a week ago and have done an outstanding job.

When asked what becomes most important for them during the Back to School season, respondents said driving in more sales by attracting potential buyers to their stores.

It's now time to apply what you've learned and launch your back-to-school sales campaigns. Add seasonal products to your store, create your deal and promotional materials, and assist others in getting into the back-to-school spirit.

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