4 Back-to-School E-commerce Campaigns

By Jack Ship
Jul 24, 2018
back to school e-commerce campaigns

With summer rushing by quickly, we here at ShippingEasy are already thinking of back-to-school prep.

With that thought, we want to make sure you are equally prepared with some strategic e-commerce marketing campaigns in your marketing arsenal, ready to roll out this late summer/early fall as you ride the back-to-school wave to bring more sales and customers to your store(s).

But first, let’s go over why you should consider kicking off at least one of these back-to-school campaigns.

Why should I care about positioning my products for back to school?

You should care about this season, even if you feel it’s unrelated to your store and products because it is the second biggest spending period of the year ($29.5 billion for K-12 and $54.1 billion for college) behind Christmas and Winter holidays ($682 Billion) (NFR Report). That’s right, not Black Friday. The NRF estimates people will spend $82.8 billion on school and college back to school merchandise alone, with an average $685 per family for K-12 and $942 per family for college.

Plus, your audience for marketing efforts doesn’t have to be limited to a target audience of students. Additional marketing segments that whip out their wallets around this time of year include college students, stressed out parents, and pressured teachers. You could even target preseason game-ready buyers with the start of the NFL and college football season at this time, as well.

Deloitte’s recent Back-to-School survey (2018) shows that the season spend peaks during the last 2 weeks in July to first 2 weeks of August, and product categories are not limited to just school supplies. Around this time of year, dorm room furniture, convenience food (mmm, ramen), and electronics can all be promoted, discounted, or bundled for the different target segments mentioned.

In fact Deloitte anticipated in this same survey that, of the product categories out there, online purchasing will break down as such: clothing and accessories (19%), supplies (17%), computers or hardware (40%), and electronic gadgets (28%).

See yourself participating in back-to-school marketing to boost your e-commerce sales and expand your customer base? If that research still leaves you unconvinced, then consider gearing up for the fall season instead. Either way, here are 4 campaign ideas you can replicate to get the ball rolling.

1. Host a Back to School Social Media Contest or Giveaway

Contests are a great way to promote your products by raffling them in a sweepstakes contest or giveaway targeted at back-to-school shoppers.

Start by choosing which social profile and community you want to run the contest/giveaway. We recommend starting with the social profile where you see the highest engagement. For a Facebook sweepstakes, you can ask the participants to answer something that can be useful to your business, or you can make it about your target audience (hint: ask what’s the most important item your kid/student needs this year!) If your product isn’t directly tied to Back to School, you can to dorm life/decor, classes, or teachers. Ask yourself how can your store products fit into the daily life of going to school (remember when you had homework or study jams?!)

One caveat with Facebook: there are specific rules about running contests and sweepstakes on Facebook. Familiarize yourself with some of them here. You’re not allowed to make entry based on performing actions on Facebook (such as tagging friends, sharing to their own timeline, etc), so you will want to build a form for requesting input from customers and have it live on your website. You also need to be clear in your terms and conditions that the contest or sweepstakes is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Facebook.

The example below is a great rendition of doing exactly that. This American Furniture Warehouse poses a sweepstake of $250 toward dorm room furnishing, imagining the pain points of a college student (what do I put in my dorm and how am I going to pay for it?) They even went as far as partnering with a local television channel via a sponsorship to expand the reach of their social media marketing efforts. Notice they are not asking fans and followers to do anything on Facebook, but rather promoting the contest on Facebook and leading people to their website or landing page.

back to school e-commerce AFW

Aside from a sweepstake, you can also run a giveaway freebie on social media like Mabel’s Labels does here. The target audience is clearly teachers, and the giveaway offers participation through nomination. What we love here is that a label-making and organizational lifestyle e-commerce business found a tie to back to school via the classroom, even for homeschoolers (another target segment). They also linked to their Facebook profile to display the official giveaway rules, also providing a link to their actual product in the Facebook post as a way to redirect traffic back to their website for further engagement and potential purchasing.

back to school e-commerce Mabel's Labels

2. Team up with mommy bloggers, influencers, and brands for a co-branded campaign

This exactly what Toddy Gear did below. As a fashionable and functional tech accessory e-commerce business, they partnered up with top mom blogger and influencer, Redhead Mom for a back to school campaign. They knew that technology usage is increasing in the classroom as tech accessories are becoming essential for the modern classroom, and moms have influence as the ones with the buying power.

A campaign like this also shows the power of mom bloggers and their followers. If you don’t know how to identify influencers and top bloggers, try influencer marketing and ranking tools like Peg, Reachbird or Scrunch. Influencer marketing is also an opportunity for you as a business owner to build relationships for future product marketing, and gain access to a community you otherwise wouldn’t have.

What we love about this co-branded campaign is it all has all the marketing vehicles at work—social media post promoting a giveaway of Toddy Gear’s products, a blog post on Redhead Mom’s influential site, photos and links to the product, and they put some spend money behind their efforts. But what we are really stoked about, is Toddy Gear got smart about their shipping, and have a discount promo banner running at the top of their site, offering free USPS shipping for orders over $40 as a way to encourage conversion. Nicely done!

back to school e-commerce influencer marketing

3. Educators and Teachers are your best bet! They purchase often in BULK. So hook them up with a discount.

Create a promotional discount targeting teachers and educators and promote it on social media like Designer Papers did below. You can also email your customer base offering a similar promotion discount on bundle items for the classroom. If you have Customer Marketing with ShippingEasy, we’ve got your discount email template already made! Just sign in to get started offering this segment your offer!

back to school e-commerce designer papers

For a campaign like this, we suggest taking it just one step further by creating an educator corner on your shop or website where you offer teachers a discount purchasing supplies. The best way to create repeat business is by showing your customers that you get them.

Try having a little fun with back to school like UnderTheCarolinaMoon does here when tying their product to the season. We love the call to action for engagement, asking their audience to tag a teacher. This helps bring more eyes to the post and views of your brand/product.

back to school e-commerce underthecarolinamoon

4. New School Year, New Gear Email Campaign – “Change” is the theme

Finally, there is good ol’ email. While you may decide Back to School isn’t a fit for your store and brand, you can still participate in the season of “change” as the new school year starts. Here, Nordstrom clearly knows the potential spending of this season and capitalizes on the theme of the changing season with the offer of a Fall clearance sale. You can easily replicate this offer on your site as Nordstrom did here, or promote in a similar style in an email. ShippingEasy has the perfect template for you, simply log in to your Customer Marketing Dashboard and select from the templates available to get started!

back to school e-commerce nordstrom

Some best practices to keep in mind for Back to School

At the end of the business day, to successfully participate and prepare for back to school, your marketing efforts and campaigns should show how your products fit into people’s school lives.

Also, remember that timing and urgency should be included in your call to actions and the launch of your e-commerce campaigns. People are shopping now, and early shoppers spend MORE than last-minute shoppers.

You can stress urgency in timeliness as well as what kind products are needed. Take a page from Staples, and think of “classroom essentials” as your market your products for dorms, college students, teachers, and parents. If you do this, don’t forget to include back to school as the specific hashtag or keyword in your product description on your store, site, and in your email marketing copy.

Another best practice we recommend in lieu of back to school campaigns, is lastly, get the kids involved as much as you can. Include them in your photos, videos and product listing images. You can do a behind-the-scenes display like Target did with their back-to-school effort in 2016 (see below), doing this will make your campaign more compelling!

Need more ideas to get started for back to school? Read our insights on getting ahead of the curve for your back-to-school campaigns. Remember, ShippingEasy is here to make things easy for you, including building repeat business and better relationships. Our Customer Marketing add-on helps with just that!

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Jack Ship

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