Back-to-school season: a time when many parents rejoice after two long, school-less months, and most children mourn the loss of their summer freedom. For e-commerce businesses, however, this time of year is an opportunity to make new customers, increase the loyalty of existing ones, and give sales a welcome boost.
While parents, teachers, and college students are planning and budgeting for their back-to-school supplies, now is the time for online retailers to prepare as well. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the effort, consider this: After Cyber Week and Christmas (or what we like to refer to as Peak Season), back-to-school is the largest shopping time of year.
Translate that to numbers, and you get $110.8 billion in 2022 back-to-school and back-to-college sales in the United States. That’s a lot of money that e-tailers are fighting for. And with 2023 being the first year students are truly returning to normalcy since the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring your digital store is ready for the influx of sales over these next couple of months is paramount to earning your piece of the back-to-school profit pie.
Here are nine back-to-school e-commerce strategies to help you generate more revenue and connect with your customers this busy shopping season.
1. Offer back-to-school bargains.
With inflation affecting most consumers, scoring a great deal on necessary school supplies could be the difference between making the sale or the shopper leaving items behind and looking elsewhere for a better price. Offering deals on back-to-school items is a great way to attract attention and entice customers to make purchases.
First, decide which products you want to include in the promotion. Then, decide what kind of offer you want to give your customers. Here are a few effective promotion ideas to get you started:
% and $ Discounts
Offer attractive discounts on back-to-school essentials to capture the attention of price-conscious shoppers. Consider percentage-based discounts, such as 10% off, or fixed-dollar discounts, such as $20 off on purchases above a certain threshold.
Just remember to highlight the discount prominently on your website, product pages, and promotional materials to create a sense of urgency and encourage immediate action.
Much like the percentage and dollar-based discounts, a flash sale is a popular and appealing way to entice customers to buy within a limited time frame. To ensure shoppers know the details, showcase any pertinent information, like when the sale ends, alongside the offer so they buy within the given time limit.
Create bundle offers by combining related products or essentials that students or parents typically purchase together. This is a great tactic for supplies that are required by schools.
For example, bundle a backpack, stationery set, and calculator at a discounted price. This not only provides added value to customers but also increases the average order value and creates peace of mind for parents working through convoluted supply lists.
Shipping costs are a primary culprit in abandoned carts, so any time you can get rid of this fee, you’re likely to be rewarded with more sales. Consider offering free shipping for all orders above a certain threshold, and highlight this promotion on your website, banners or modals, and email campaigns to incentivize customers to make purchases without the worry of additional expenses.
Encourage repeat purchases and foster customer loyalty by implementing a back-to-school-themed loyalty program or promotion. Offer exclusive discounts, early access to sales, or reward points that customers can accumulate and redeem for future purchases. This fosters a sense of appreciation and keeps customers engaged with your brand beyond the back-to-school season.
Bonus Tip: Don’t limit who your target audience is. Consider all of the main shoppers, including parents, primary school kids, college students, and even educators.
2. Utilize email marketing.
Email campaigns are one of the most cost-effective means of reaching your audience. And with 4.3 billion people actively using their email, you’ll be sure to compel a few of your customers to visit your online store.
Start by using your email distribution list to inform your customers about any back-to-school campaigns you are running. Make sure to include this in both the body of your emails and the subject line, so that they know you have an awesome back-to-school deal the moment they check their inbox.
Another incredibly useful way to use this marketing tool is by sending out cart abandonment emails to shoppers who haven’t converted their cart to a purchase. This is your opportunity to remind them about the wonderful products they left behind. Add in an offer, like free delivery or a limited-time promo code to encourage them to complete their purchase and make them feel like a valued customer.
If you’re wondering whether your emails will simply get lost in the mass quantity of incoming messages your customers receive daily, consider this: The ROI for email marketing is approximately 4500%. That’s $45 for every dollar you spend.
Bonus Tip: Segmenting your email lists based on customer preference and history will ensure your messages are relevant and engaging, which translates to a higher return of sales.
3. Deliver personalized experiences.
By now, you already know that customers not only want personalization but expect it. When you tailor a shopping experience to each customer’s interests, you’re enhancing their engagement, fostering loyalty, and increasing conversions. A study from OptiMonk found that 65% of e-commerce stores saw an increase in conversion rates after adopting a personalization strategy.
How can you weave in some content that feels tailor-made for your customers during the back-to-school season? Start by recommending relevant products based on each customer’s preferences, past purchases, and browsing history. This can be done to suggest items similar to what they like or have bought before, or to upsell or cross-sell items that complement what they already have in their cart.
For example, if a shopper has a new backpack in their cart, you could recommend some writing supplies or binders. Or, if they need a new laptop, you could suggest a protective laptop case. What’s awesome about personalized recommendations is that 75% of customers are more likely to buy because of them (and 49% have bought something they weren’t planning on after receiving a recommendation).
Bonus Tip: Executing on real-time data (like we do at Granify) is key to delivering a personalized shopping experience, and can be used to create everything from tailored recommendations and deals to customized emails and product offerings.
4. Leverage your social media.
Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok are just three of the many social media platforms e-commerce businesses should be using to reach out to new and existing customers. Why? For starters, 96.9 million people in just the United States shop on social media and last year, 35% of parents used social media to assist with their back-to-school shopping.
The bottom line is that social media is a powerful marketing tool and when used effectively, can significantly increase conversions. Here are some ways to use social media to appeal to back-to-school shoppers:
- Create engaging stories and live videos that feature new and relevant promotions, demonstrate product usage, and give shoppers behind-the-scenes content on your store.
- Collaborate with influencers in the back-to-school niche to create engaging content that features your products and helps you reach a wider audience and strengthen brand credibility.
- Invest in social media advertising to promote your back-to-school offers, reach a broader audience, and drive targeted traffic to your website.
- Run contests and giveaways to increase engagement and encourage users to participate by sharing their back-to-school stories, experiences, or photos with your products.
Bonus Tip: Remember to be mindful of each social media platform’s rules and regulations regarding contests and giveaways, and to ensure you are adhering to any applicable data privacy laws.
5. Optimize your website.
You can have the best products in the world, but if your website causes headaches, that’s all you’ll be left with. Planning for back-to-school is chaotic enough and busy shoppers won’t wait around for slow sites or complicated checkouts. To avoid frustrating potential customers (and existing ones), here’s what you need to do:
- Organize the content on your site so it flows seamlessly with the shopper's journey and makes it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. This includes search tools, a product menu, and a live support chat option.
- Create a better UX by ensuring your site is as fast as possible. If not, 45% of your shoppers will be less likely to buy, and 37% likely won’t return ever again.
- Display your back-to-school items on a designated landing page. Include any subsequent offers and/or promotions, as well as any influencer-related content you may have.
- Add social proof, such as customer reviews and product ratings on your product pages to instill confidence in shoppers wavering on buying.
- Ensure your checkout process is as streamlined as possible by offering guest checkout and auto-fill for redundant information.
Bonus Tip: Run a security audit on your site regularly to ensure your customer’s data is protected, and make sure to include this info somewhere on your site.
6. Maximize all of your shopping channels.
Consumers don’t shop like they used to. These days, a shopper may see something they like on their Instagram page, check it on the store’s online site over their phone, and then purchase online from their desktop computer.
No, it’s not just a cool trend for Gen Z and Gen Alpha – 73% of all retail consumers use multiple channels to shop. That means for every 10 back-to-school shoppers, over seven will shop using a variety of channels. Providing them with an omnichannel strategy creates a seamless buying experience throughout the shopping funnel, which means more completed sales and fewer cart ditchers.
Here's what you’ll need to do to provide a seamless multi-channel experience:
- Ensure a united and consistent shopping experience across all channels, including your website, mobile app, social media platforms, and physical stores (if applicable).
- Optimize your mobile app to have all of the same details and capabilities as your desktop and mobile sites.
- Integrate your product catalog with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to enable social shopping, making sure to include buy buttons and product tags on the platforms that you can.
- Offer the option for customers to buy online and pick up their purchases in-store or at designated pickup locations, which will appeal to customers who prefer the convenience of online shopping but also want to see the product in person before making a purchase.
Bonus Tip: To make your brand more identifiable, keep your branding consistent across all channels, including fonts, color profiles, and messaging.
7. Make sure you’re mobile-ready.
It’s no surprise that more consumers are using their smartphones to make their online purchases and that fact remains the same for back-to-school buyers – 65% of online back-to-school consumers shop from a smartphone. What may astonish you is how vital having a mobile-first experience is to e-commerce success.
As mobile browsing and shopping continue to rise, it's imperative to make your website mobile-friendly to ensure a smooth experience for your smartphone customers. For starters, simplify each page to reduce unnecessary content. Next, ensure your mobile app is performing at high speeds and optimal navigation. Finally, keep your checkout super simple and concise, so that shoppers can complete their purchases quickly, without having to recite their entire history.
Bonus Tip: Unsure about your mobile performance? Google’s page speed insights tool gives mobile and desktop-specific experience reports.
8. Get your popups prepared.
The name itself, “popup,” gathers quite a reaction from naysayers who find this tactic intrusive and annoying. But when done right—and shown at the right time—popups can work magic on an e-commerce store’s conversion rate. It’s all about the when and the where.
Shove a popup over a product page that blocks the shopper’s view of what they were looking at, and yes, your shopper will be left bothered. But nudge a popup subtly to the side of that same page with a personalized recommendation that complements what they’re looking at, and you have a delighted customer who feels valued for interacting with items they like and might have otherwise missed.
Here are some other useful ways to implement popups into your back-to-school strategy:
Upselling and Cross-Selling
Popups provide an opportunity to sell items to customers that are either
similar to what they’re looking at, (but at a higher price point) or that complements the items they are currently interested in buying.
Create a back-to-school popup that highlights any relevant promotions or discounts that capture your shoppers’ attention and encourage them to explore your site. Meanwhile, a countdown timer popup creates a sense of urgency and instills some serious FOMO in shoppers who don’t want to miss out on a good deal or limited-stock item.
Implement exit-intent popups that trigger when a visitor is about to leave your website. These popups work best with an incentive attached, like a limited-time discount that entices them to complete their purchase. They also have an average conversion rate of 17 percent.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to ensure any popups are compatible with all mobile devices.
9. Offer BNPL
Buy Now, Pay Later has exploded in popularity, with over 360 million users worldwide. BNPL provider, Klarna, has already amassed eight million active users every month in the United States. And it’s easy to understand why. Not only will your customers be able to acquire products they otherwise couldn’t have, but retailers reap the rewards of higher conversions and grateful customers.
For parents, teachers, and college students on a tight budget, Buy Now Pay Later can be a game changer in helping them get what they need now, even if they can’t afford paying for it all at once. By reducing their financial barriers and increasing their purchasing power, you’ll be able to enhance their shopping experience and keep your customers happy and loyal.
Get ready for the back-to-school e-commerce rush!
The back-to-school season opens up an enormous window of opportunity for e-commerce enterprises to achieve substantial growth. By employing the recommended strategies we've provided, you’ll be able to effectively generate more revenue while also keeping your customers happy.
So, gear up, put these strategies into action, and get ready to conquer the back-to-school season for greater sales and long-term business growth.
Convert more shoppers into buyers.
With our advanced artificial intelligence capabilities, Granify can analyze each back-to-school shopper’s behavior and identify patterns to deliver real-time personalized recommendations.
Whether it's reducing cart abandonment, offering targeted product recommendations, or leveraging urgency-based messaging, our data-driven approach empowers online retailers to create a seamless and engaging shopping experience that creates a seamless and engaging shopping experience that will have teachers giving you a gold star.
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