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Back-to-School: 4 steps to win the season

Back-to-school is a long season with the potential to significantly impact brands’ bottom lines and set the foundation for Q4 success. Set your brand up for success with these steps.

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The Back-to-School (BTS) season starts earlier every year. Many shoppers are beginning to think about the upcoming school year when the last has barely ended. Officially, the BTS season starts mid-June and extends as late as September, meaning BTS shopping is already well underway. As of early July, more than half (55%) of consumers who are buying for back-to-class said they have already started shopping. This gives brands more incentivization to start their efforts now too.

Consumers are starting to shop earlier so they can claim inventory before it sells out, do their research before buying, and space out purchases to lessen the hit to their wallets. As inflation slowly cools, consumers are most concerned with value for their money and will get savvy with their purchase decisions. Not only are consumers comparing retailers and platforms, but they’re also comparing channels. People are adopting omni-channel shopping to find the best deal across channels as well as leveraging the ‘add to cart’ feature so they can see when deals and discounts are implemented.

The outlook for Back-to-School 2023

This year’s back-to-school budget is going to be the biggest one yet – consumers are expected to spend record amounts. According to research conducted by the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $890.07 on BTS items this year, approximately $25 more than last year and a new high. College students and their families are expected to spend an average of $1,366.95 per person, up $167 from last year and another new record.

A recent survey from Optimove found 88% of respondents show a strong preference for their favorite brands during the back-to-school season. The survey also revealed that 86% of consumers plan to repeat purchases from the same brands as last year. For brands and retailers, this represents an opportunity to gain actionable insights to foster loyalty and increase spending ahead of the holiday season.

How to win this back-to-school season

Back-to-school is a long season with the potential to significantly impact brands’ bottom lines and set the foundation for Q4 success. Set your brand up for success with the following 4 steps.

  1. Don’t discount, offer value-based rewards and promotions.

BTS shoppers are looking for the best deals and savings, but that doesn’t mean you have to implement frequent sales and discounts. In fact, frequent sales and discounts are unsustainable for brands for the following reasons:

  • It trains shoppers to wait until there’s a discount to buy.
  • It devalues the product by putting emphasis on the price.
  • It attracts the bargain shoppers who won’t necessarily be loyal customers in the long run.
  • It eats into profit margins.

Instead, brands should look into providing rewards and promotions to give incentivization while also maintaining brand value and perception during the BTS season. What do value-based rewards and promotions look like? We listed a few ideas for your brand below:

  • Cash Back
  • Pre-launch discounts
  • Free shipping
  • Buy One, Get One (BOGO)
  • Free gift with purchase

These alternatives to heavy discounting will offer BTS shoppers financial incentivization while maintaining positive consumer perception. 

  1. Stack incentives.

To really be competitive, retailers are leveraging multiple strategies to attract shoppers. For example, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) and Buy Online Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) have been popular add-ons to create additional incentivization for consumers.

  1. Deliver convenience and flexibility with omnichannel experiences.

Consumers use a variety of channels (like in store, mobile, or online) to shop and find deals. An omnichannel approach allows brands to capitalize on consumers’ buying preferences and make shopping convenient for customers regardless of where they’re at.

  1. Boost visibility through different media and channels.

Use media to boost promotion and reward performance. By leveraging media, brands can support brand discovery and amplify awareness for deals, promotional events, and Cash Back offers.

Not only can media increase exposure, but providing an omni-channel experience can too. As mentioned above, consumers are jumping across multiple channels looking for the best deals. The more consumers shop and see you across various channels, the more likely they are to spend money with your brand and expand your share of wallet.

Leverage these four tactics in your Back-to-School strategy and you’ll be gaining high-quality customers throughout the season and setting your brand up for Q4 success.


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