Back to school (BTS) is the second busiest season of the year for US retailers, as parents, children, and college students shop for products they need for the upcoming school year. Ecommerce sales are expected to rise 14.4 percent, surpassing $56 billion during the July-August 2015 BTS season, according to a new eMarketer report, Back-to-School-Ecommerce Preview 2015.
An average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend about $630 on back-to-school shopping. That includes nearly $100 this season on school supplies like notebooks, pencils, and backpacks, the second-highest amount since the recession. In addition, a typical college family plans to spend a $126 on dorm or apartment furnishings. These are among the findings of a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, Top 10 Trends for Back to School and college 2015.
BTS time also helps online retailers get through what is often a difficult third quarter in sales. Whatever you sell, it’s worth it to try and capitalize on the growing BTS market. Online stores should consider the following strategies:
- Increase your marketing budget for the BTS season. Since consumers are in a shopping mode, that investment can deliver very positive returns for your online store. That investment can include new creative ideas, as well as an expansion of your current marketing strategy.
- Promote BTS products such as school supplies, clothing and textbooks using digital, mobile and social media. The mobile channel is particularly important this year, since many parents compare product features and prices using their smartphones. In fact, 73 percent of parents use mobile devises to buy B2S items, according to a recent Adweek survey.
- Identify year-round products that may have a strong appeal to teens, college students or parents and market them for the BTS season. For instance, smartphone accessories, bicycle locks, printers and toner are among the wide range of everyday products that can be promoted effectively for BTS.
- Offer free shipping along with an easy return policy. The NRF survey indicated that free shipping was important to 90 percent of college shoppers.
- Provide clear options for delivery. While most BTS shoppers want products sent to their homes, others may want shipments to go directly to a college student in a dorm room. You may want to review those addresses visually or automatically before shipping to avoid time-consuming shipping errors.
- Take advantage of any sales tax holidays. Shoppers in more than a dozen states can purchase BTS products during certain periods in August without paying sales tax. That’s an attractive proposition for parents since their BTS shopping dollars can go further. Check your state’s tax rules for specific tax holiday dates and products, and see if your online buyers qualify for this benefit.
- Deploy a remarketing strategy to promote your BTS products to online visitors who go to different social media or websites. This can be an effective approach for reminding them of our offerings and bringing them back to your online store.
- Reward loyal shoppers with special discounts on future purchases. This can be a great way to boost sales of school-related products after the fall semester begins.
Since more and more consumers are shopping online for BTS products, now is the time for ecommerce retailers to review product lines and launch an effective promotional strategy in order to capitalize on this growing market opportunity.