Most back-to-school buying occurs close to the first day of school, but the actual shopping starts much earlier, especially online. So, while we are still in the midst of summer, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your back-to-school marketing strategy.
Not surprisingly (especially if you are the parent with the credit card) back-to-school sales are heaviest in five key product areas: apparel and accessories; books, music and video; computers and consumer electronics; office equipment and supplies; and toys and hobby. And in those core back-to-school product categories, eCommerce retail will grow by 14.2 percent in 2015, according to eMarketer.
Autonomous marketing platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are now an integral part of this back-to-school eCommerce ecosystem. Go to Pinterest and you will find more than 70 back-to-school subcategories; Twitter had 41.5 million back-to-school mentions in 2014. These platforms are where moms and students research products, compare prices, find recommendations, and look for trends inspiration.
Case in point, seventy-three percent of American mothers surveyed by SheKnows in July 2014 said they used Facebook to make back-to-school shopping decisions. The second most popular platform was Pinterest, with more than 32 percent of moms using it to make decisions.
Their children also use these platforms to make decisions, but in slightly different ways. eMarketer estimates that 88 percent of 12 to 17 year olds will be social network users in 2015, and while only 39 percent of the children in the SheKnows study use Facebook to make back-to-school shopping decisions, they are much more likely than their parents to use Instagram and YouTube in this way and are increasingly turning to social media for back-to-school ideas from their peers.
Strategy&‘s chief retail strategist Tom Blischok explained:
Social is going to play a huge part of back-to-school this year, much more than last year. Kids now are comparing what other kids are getting a lot more online.
Peer influence is nothing new, but how kids are finding that influence is changed by autonomous marketing platforms. Eighty one percent of students in a study by Fluent said that friends’ recommendations via social media were very or somewhat influential.
And while parents have the ultimate say on most purchases (or at least think they do), it should be noted that influence doesn’t just flow from parent to child. Parents influence other parents, kids influence their parents, and brands can influence all of these groups with the right strategy for their autonomous marketing platforms.
Here are my eight tips for getting the most out of your autonomous marketing platform back-to-school strategy:
1. Target moms and students where they are most likely to engage
Find moms when they’re at home or on their phone planning for back-to-school time. Engage students when they’re on their mobile phones with aspirational products and ideas to that get them excited about the back-to-school season.
2. Tailor the approach you take for each audience segment
Moms respond well to deals and offers on products, while students prefer engaging content.
3. Create content each month based on seasonal trends
Focus on back-to-school essentials in July. Talk about beauty and retail themes in August. And key-in on Back to School clothes in September.
4. Focus on Pinterest to engage with Moms
Moms are using Pinterest as a guided search engine to find informative back-to-school content. If you target search terms early in their planning process you can drive future intent. Do this by providing informative pin content – such as “Back to School checklist,” “Tips for Back to School success,” etc. – that assist with the planning process.
5. Go to Instagram to reach teens
Instagram is the most popular social network amongst American teens, according to eMarketer. Create beautiful content for key products, such as laptops, bags, room décor, and accessories, to engage teens.
6. Join the back-to-school conversations in real-time on Twitter
Target users who have been tweeting about going back-to-school or planning for back-to-school. Reach moms who are watching ‘Back to School’ TV shows with Or use Twitter’s TV targeting to reach moms watching back-to-school TV shows and put your brand at the forefront of the conversation.
7. Make use of video
If you have video assets, use Facebook and Twitter’s auto-play video formats to drive high engagement and video views. Then re-engage users who watched your video content with a website tweet or link quote, that brings them to a site where they can browse more specific products.
8. Personalize your messaging
Multi-variate testing can be matched with targeting to deliver superior results.
Ruth Arber is the director of solutions at Adaptly.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.