A Guide to

Back-to-School Marketing

Statistics, trends and strategies to optimize your back-to-school marketing efforts

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    Back-to-school shopping is the second most important retail period, just behind the winter holidays. But with a recession looming, inflationary pressures, and regional and global economic crises ongoing, there are some real concerns about how much consumers will be spending this year. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. In June 2022, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that the Consumer Price Index hit 9.1%, the highest it had been in over 40 years - and consumers still shopped on par with the previous year’s records.

    For the upcoming school season, brands and retailers will have to optimize their marketing efforts to keep this spending trend going, and entice ever more price-conscious shoppers. To help, we’ve created a handy guide to some key trends to watch out for, as well as strategies to consider for the 2024 back-to-school period. Get out your notebooks and keep that pencil sharpened!

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    Current Landscape of the Back-to-School Market

    Inflation woes depressed retail sales in 2023, but the lesson from last year is that back-to-school remains an essential category for consumers. Major retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and The Home Depot are bracing for a slowing economy and 69% of consumers plan to cut back on nonessential spending over the next six months according to a 2023 PwC survey. But parents are expected to again spend record amounts preparing for the new school year.


    Spent on back-to-school and back-to-college shopping in 2023


    average household budget for back-to-school shopping in 2023 


    for back-to-college shopping.


    parents say they would be willing to splurge for the right reasons.


    Back-to-school shoppers are now more likely to opt for online shopping.

    Online shopping remains a top choice for both back-to-school and back-to-college shoppers:


    of back-to-college shoppers shop online


     of back-to-school shoppers shop online


    Back to school shoppers are likely to be strategic about what they are spending on with the focus being on essential school supplies over tech products that previously saw a rise during the pandemic.


     on school supplies (+20% YOY) 


    on clothing and accessories (-14%YOY)


     on tech products  (-13% YOY)


    Back-to-school purchases are heavily influenced by social media and socially savvy kids

    Reliance on social media for information and shopping:


    use social media for deal seeking (up from 56% in 2022)


     overall usage in 2023 (down from 35% in 2022)


    Students have a major influence on what their parents or guardians buy for them: 


    of parents state that back-to-school purchasing decisions are influenced by their children’s wishes.


    increase in keyword search volume for back-to-school (after a decline in the 2022 season)


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    Back-to-School Marketing Strategies

    For brands, It will be critical that their back-to-school marketing strategies not only make the shopping experience digital-friendly and efficient but also connect with key audiences in new ways. How? Here’s our back-to-school list to check-off!


    Start marketing early – but don’t forget tardy shoppers:

    The back-to-school season runs from mid-July to mid-September, but consumers are also on the hunt for good deals sooner. Whether it be to stretch out their budget, plan for possible product delays or take advantage of deals and promotions, consumers are looking to get a head start on their shopping so it’s good practice to start preparing for back-to-school promotions and marketing campaigns earlier than ever. For retailers, offering discount coupons that customers can use for future school purchases can be a great way to increase sales during the vital back-to-school period. Sending digital receipts via email is another great way to organically collect customer contact information over the year and build an email list to fuel back-to-school marketing. But keep in mind that the back-to-school season is long. Be sure to keep the latecomers in mind who want to scoop up last-minute deals.


    Simplify the shopping experience for harried parents:

    Back-to-school season is a hectic time for parents with multiple school children. Help them shop by streamlining the shopping experience.

    Generate Shopping Guides & Checklists: One of the ways to simplify the back-to-school shopping experience is to provide guides or checklists. These help consumers know which products to buy and find items easily in-store. Retailers like Target have worked to streamline the process by making school supply lists available online, easily searchable via zipcode. Turn browsers into shoppers by allowing them to checkout directly from the shopping list.

    Offer back-to-school bundles: 46% of shoppers purchased preconfigured supply kits in 2022, because they save money and cut down on the time it takes to find everything they need before the school year begins. These bundles might include everything from basic school supplies to snacks, high-tech devices, and sports gear. For brands, this helps move inventory, increase basket size, and increase revenue.


    Run special discounts & promotional events:


    of shoppers will  look for Back to School deals for at least one of the categories they plan on buying from. 


    of shoppers will try out a new or different brand if it’s offered at a lower price (assuming the quality is equal)


    Target back-to-school shoppers by giving them special discounts via specific back-to-school promotions:

    Have Special Discounts for Education Personnel: When it comes to the back-to-school season, teachers need to prepare themselves as much as students. However, unlike students, they might have different priorities and budgeting concerns that affect their buying decisions. This allows retailers to differentiate themselves by giving special attention to teachers when offering discounts. Target does a great job with this by holding its yearly Teacher Prep Event where a 15% discount on select back-to-school items is offered at its stores.

    Create Engaging Contests and Sweepstakes: A promotional contest or sweepstake is a highly motivating back-to-school marketing solution -- especially when paired with a higher value prize or reward. When developing a back-to-school contest, consider rewards such as laptops, iPads, clothes or gift cards to large retail supply stores. Add an influencer and promo code into the mix, and your social reach gets even bigger!

    Piggy-Back on Back-To-School Shopping: Not all brands typically sell back-to-school products. For those that want to piggyback on the season, they can tie up with retail stores to offer back-to-school-themed purchase incentives. Restaurants, for example, can offer discounts on meals with a back-to-school purchase receipt.

    Danone wanted to drive sales and capitalize on the key back-to-school shopping period while helping parents out at the most stressful time of the year. Snipp developed a seasonal-driven digital sweepstakes program, where consumers who purchased qualifying Danone products could upload their receipt on a program microsite + register for a chance to win one of five grand prizes of $12,000!.


    Create a seamless, omnichannel buying experience – and maximize each channel:

    The biggest back-to-school retailers, including Walmart, Target, and Amazon, rely on digital advertising more and more to reach their customers before the school year starts. But when it comes to completing a transaction, consumers prefer an omnichannel shopping experience -- they’re using a mix of channels to make sure their shopping trips are hassle-free and convenient. Research also shows that 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned, which leaves a lot of money behind for retailers. Providing an omnichannel strategy where consumers can pick up in stores where they leave off online creates a frictionless shopping experience for parents, teachers, and students throughout the shopping funnel.

    Display Back-to-School Products on Special Webpages & Online Menus: Brands can provide tailor made content for back-to-school items to help guide shoppers. Dedicated microsites and landing pages can help promote products, provide resources for customers, and show up in keyword searches for back to school.

    Enable Social Shopping: Deloitte’s back-to-school survey shows that 35% of back-to-school shoppers plan to use social media to assist in shopping. Shopping directly from social media platforms is becoming increasingly popular and is also a way to engage with customers, update them with the latest offerings, and show them how to use branded products.

    Create Strategic Displays For Brick and Mortar: Compared to previous years, shoppers are more confident shopping in stores, with 45% of shoppers planning to turn to department stores for their back-to-school shopping. For retailers and brands, this is a great opportunity to turn prime in-store real estate into back-to-school blowout displays that lure customers.

    Kids Foot Locker opened its first brick-and-mortar House of Play concept stores in Miami and Dallas as a way to give millennial parents (and their Alpha children) an interactive experience. These stores feature an array of immersive experiences, including murals designed to help youngsters create their own TikTok- and Instagram-worthy experiences.


    Target Gen z where they are (on TikTok):

    Gen Z makes up the largest cohort of students at the moment, since they are now both secondary school and university age. They’re also the generation of digital natives, turning to social media platforms for school shopping inspiration. With 80% of Gen Z having purchased a product they discovered on social media, marketers will be leveraging social channels to cement relationships with them during the back-to-school season. TikTok in particular will provide opportunities for a wider variety of brands, as students are using it to connect with more retail categories than ever before, such as credit cards, furniture, groceries, and cleaning supplies -- in addition to traditional categories like apparel and technology. But it’s more than just old-school labels staking a claim on TikTok. Gen Z influencers are also lifting smaller, independent brands up from their relatively unknown statuses, and propelling them on to the digital pathways of millions of users. For brands looking to become visible on TikTok, consider the following ways:

    Offer Hacks and Tips: Create content aligned with popular hashtags like #LifeHack and #EduTok with billions of views each. For Gen Z, learning something fun can open the door to deeper brand engagement.

    Optimize TikTok SEO: Gen Z uses TikTok like Google, meaning they’re searching for the products they want directly within the platform. Brands need to make sure their content is easily discoverable, by including keywords, hashtags and optimized content for engagement.

    Use Gen Z Student Influencers: One study from Voxburner found that 85% of Generation Z would like to see more diverse representation in advertising. By actively including target audiences within a campaign, brands can demonstrate an understanding for this generation’s desire for greater inclusion.

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    American Eagle tapped musician and TikTok influencer Katherine Li, along with five other TikTok creators to promote a back-to-school branded hashtag challenge, which asked users to shoot a video showing off their American Eagle jeans. Three winners were awarded gift cards valued at $3,000 and saw their submissions shared on a Times Square billboard after the contest wrapped.

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    Even with a shift toward savings and belt-tightening, US households prioritize back-to-school shopping. But as the past year has shown, families are planning their budgets in advance and around key sales events, willing to begin shopping earlier or to wait longer for the best promotions. Brands and retailers should therefore focus on providing offers that generate real savings, and enhance the overall shopping experience with a seamless transition from online to in-store purchasing. Back-to-school marketing is becoming an increasingly competitive landscape, and brands looking to gain visibility will have to ensure they have a solid message, compelling pricing, and the right channels to reach their targeted shoppers.


    About Snipp

    Snipp provides promotions and loyalty programs designed to engage customers across the entire path to purchase - in-store, at home and online. Clients can run one-off promotions to evergreen loyalty programs that meet objectives at a brand, shopper, category, and portfolio level and customizable by region, language, channel, retailer and more.

    SnippCARE, our modular Customer Acquisition, Retention & Engagement platform, powered by our market-leading receipt processing platform for purchase and non=purchase validation, enables implementation of ROI-driven, omni-channel programs, globally. We capture zero-party data in real time and build proprietary data sets, driving engagement, personalization and brand loyalty and enabling intelligent decision-making. It’s tailor-made for brands to build deeper relationships with their customers.

    For over a decade, we have worked with the world’s leading organizations in both B2C and B2B spaces, across industry verticals including CPG, retail, pharma, utility, home and outdoor, alcohol, tobacco, lifestyle and more.

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