Back-to-School Tips for E-Commerce Sellers

By Rob Zaleski
Aug 8, 2017
back-to-school tips blog

Summer is winding down, the longest days are behind us, and teachers are prepping their syllabi. Looks like we’re in back-to-school season. While kids may groan and roll their eyes, this is excellent news for eCommere sellers like you, because parents are ready to spend. Because of that, we recently held a webinar providing eCommerce-centric back-to-school tips to help you prepare.

Here, we’ll summarize some of the major points of that webinar and provide some actionable tips you can use to insert your business into the conversation, even if you don’t think your business falls into the traditional school supplies market.

You can view the recording of the webinar at the bottom of this post (about 30 mins long).

Back-to-school tip #1: think beyond the products, tell a story

Storytelling has been all the rage as a marketing buzzword lately, but there is merit to it. Leveraging a theme and finding a way that your products can fit into the overarching story around that theme can help you participate in a season you may not think you traditionally fit in.

For example, say you sell coffee. Maybe not the first thing you think of when you think of school starting back up. But imagine college students trudging through the snow to class. What parent wouldn’t want to provide their child (possibly hundreds of miles away) with something to keep them warm? How about a nice insulated mug, and coffee or tea to fill it with? Now work the narrative of being a thoughtful parent helping keep their kid warm on the way to class this fall and winter and you have a story angle. Maybe even throw in a reloadable gift card to encourage the follow-up purchase. Emphasize how much money they could save brewing a cup of coffee in the dorm room rather than daily coffee shop runs. Find the angle, insert yourself into the narrative, and it all begins to come together. (Can you tell I grew up and went to college in the Midwest? Brrr.)

You will have to do more than slap a discount on products and call it a back-to-school sale. According to RetailMeNot, 81% of retailers will offer more deals on back-to-school in 2017 vs 2016, so there is plenty to compete with. Stories resonate, and when your products resonate with people, they purchase. On that same note, make sure you aren’t just focusing on students’ needs. Parents and teachers are just as affected by school starting up as students are (I’m looking at you, stress relief products).

Back-to-school tip #2: use the power of the inbox

The back-to-school season is a great time to make full use of an email subscription list. Around 80% of people sign up for emails to keep abreast of deals and discounts. We highly recommend segmenting your list based on purchase history, purchase frequency, and maybe even specific items ordered.

For example, you could segment your list to target people who haven’t purchased in a while, say 90 days or more. You can then use a back-to-school campaign with copy that speaks directly to them, welcoming them to a new school year (and back to your online store) with a deal. Or create a segment that has purchased the SKU(s) you plan to put on special, and use the back-to-school campaign to remind them to refill before the busy school year kicks off.

Before you start sending out those emails though, a word about mobile. Over 50% of emails are read on mobile phones, so make sure yours look good. That means using large graphics, clear text, and tappable calls-to-action (either thumb-friendly buttons or larger text). There are various ways to do this. Companies like Litmus and Email On Acid offer free trials of their paid products which show you mobile views of emails. You could always simply try sending a test email to yourself and coworkers who have different phones than you, and see how they look. Your email service provider may also offer mobile previews. Our Customer Management feature offers desktop, mobile, and tablet views, for example.

Back-to-School tip #3: build loyalty now

The back-to-school season precedes THE season: holidays. This means you have a great opportunity to build the relationship with customers before you get too deep into your busy season. Consider starting a loyalty campaign, or promoting an existing one. That way, when holiday season rolls around, you have a better chance to be top of mind for some of your customers.

This could be in the form of a digital punch card of sorts, a refer-a-friend program, or simply increasing email signups to receive exclusive discounts no one else gets. However you approach it, take this opportunity to ensure you’re the one customers are thinking of when the real spending comes this holiday season.

You have plenty of opportunity to make the most of this back-to-school season. Want a more in-depth look at what you should be doing? Watch the video below.

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Rob Zaleski

Head of Brand at ShippingEasy
I'm a digital content and social media nerd with a passion for telling stories, helping connect people, and finding joy in the details.

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