It’s Summer – Time to Get Ready for Back to School Marketing

4 minute read

Upland Admin

Winter is a distant memory, the rainy days of Spring have cleared, and it’s time to bask in the sunshine of summer days. The last thing on people’s minds is back to school shopping. Retailers hoping to capitalize on the annual frenzy of buying new clothes, office supplies, and electronics are fast approaching the deadline for back to school marketing planning.

Back-to-school is an important time for retailers. Not only does the shopping from this time of year contribute to a large portion of total revenue, the clothes and items bought during back to school are essential to growing brand awareness and customer loyalty for the even more lucrative holiday shopping season. In order to get you ready for back-to-school, do your own homework and review the importance of BTS, the most recent trends, and how consumer behavior has changed.

How Important is Back to School Shopping Anyways?

Back-to-school (BTS) and Back-to-college (BTC) shopping is second in retail sales only to the winter holidays. Back to school shopping differs from other holiday shopping events because the buying time frame is longer than other holidays like Halloween or Christmas. Researching products and promotions begins in July, comparing and purchasing starts in August, and a few last-minute items are purchased in September. According to a study by Deloitte, 54% of consumers will wait until less than a month before the school year to complete their shopping. Consumers are primarily buying office supplies, apparel, electronics, and books. The wide range of items people look for in combination with the long shopping period makes BTS and BTC marketing campaigns particularly tricky.

Below are trends and campaign ideas that will help retailers navigate the difficulties of back to school shopping.

Back to School & Back to College Trends

Spending for Back to school and Back to College marketing initiatives has declined over the last few years. Looking at the two charts below, it’s clear that consumer confidence in the economy is a key indicator for how much we spend on back to school shopping. Considering consumer confidence is on the rise, we should expect to see an increase in spending from 2014.

Planned Back to School Spending

Planned Back to College Spending


Not all categories have been hit equally though. Despite the dip in planned spending, there has been a significant increase in the purchasing of electronics (20%) and school supplies (19%).

The longer BTS shopping season means consumers have plenty of time to find the best deals on must-have items. Therefore, retailers must focus on providing plenty of opportunities for consumers to get deals, coupons, and join a loyalty program. Back to School shopping is no different than the majority of retail shopping in that more users are using their smartphones, tablets, and social media to interact with brands. Optimizing websites for mobile and growing social media communities will be key for brands. One of the most interesting trends is providing the flexibility to purchase items online and return in-store.

This fits with the bulk of consumers who believe the best deals are to be found online but do not want to spend the extra time and shipping costs associated with having to return an item. The above graphic also illustrates how customers use their phones in store to comparison shop.

Consumer Behavior during BTS and BTC

After reviewing consumer trends, here are 5 key takeaways:

  1. Consumers will share personal information for discounts
  2. BTS & BTC is a discount-focused shopping season
  3. Consumers want an easy method to return items in-store or online
  4. 76% of consumers visit retail sites to read reviews
  5. 67% of consumers visit retail sites to find promotions

In order to capitalize on these trends, retailers should offer consumers an easier method for returning items if they opt-in to a loyalty program. Offer free shipping and promote a simple return policy if things don’t work out. Use simple discounts such as percentage off the total price and promote it prominently on your site and through outreach initiatives like email and SMS campaigns. Finally, make it super simple for customers to read reviews on your site to assist with their shopping research. In order to increase the number of reviews for specific products, you can offer consumers incentives (cash value or loyalty points) for reviewing products they have recently purchased. So post purchase, make sure to ask them for a review and share their experience on social media.

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