Influencing Back-to-School Style as Classrooms Reopen

The key marketing strategy to get your brand in front of families

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The first day of school is always a mix of emotions—excitement to see friends and classmates after a long summer away, combined with nerves for entering a new grade or a new school. This year, these emotions are multiplied as many students return to classrooms for the first time in a year and a half.

Parents are feeling the pressure more than ever to make sure their kids are ready to learn, as well as social success. But how exactly can they find inspiration for the latest back-to-school trends after so long in quarantine?

A recent survey found that three-quarters of parents are turning to online influencers for ideas. Back-to-school marketers should take note. If influencers aren’t already a pillar of your back-to-school marketing strategy, then you need to pivot—and fast.

Here are some key considerations for marketers who want to capitalize on the power of influencers this back-to-school season.

Benefiting from authenticity

Authenticity is key to influencing shoppers. In fact, 86% of consumers say authenticity matters when making purchase decisions.

Luckily for marketers, influencers have authenticity in spades, providing a plethora of opportunities to deliver rich, conversation-like experiences in an atmosphere of inherent trust between consumers and their favorite content creators. Rather than a push approach, consumers proactively seek out influencers and form personal connections based on shared or aspirational styles, beliefs or interests.

This connection is enhanced when influencers deliver the authenticity that consumers crave. Transparency about sponsored content and providing unbiased reviews are necessary for an influencer to build trust with their audience. Collaborating with influencers who embody these qualities will deliver a level of authenticity and authority that can’t be replicated by other marketing strategies.

74% of parents have purchased a product recommended by a social media influencer through an affiliate link.

One of the most effective ways to leverage the trusting relationships between influencers and their audiences is to equip them with affiliate links for the products they opt to promote. This allows influencers to organically promote products they love. These links are a simple, transparent and easy way for influencers to drive sales for brands and get rewarded for their work while staying true to what makes them authentic.

Influencers cast a particularly powerful spell on parents, with 74% saying they have purchased a product recommended by a social media influencer through an affiliate link. Even a student wouldn’t need to know much about the transitive property to see that combining influencers and affiliate marketing will be a powerful boon for winning the back-to-school shopping season.

Investing in influencers of all sizes—from micro to macro

As parents seek out inspiration for back-to-school needs, that doesn’t stop them from prioritizing the hunt for the best deals. According to research by marketing technology firm Valassis, 64% of consumers say coupons and discounts are most likely to influence their purchase decisions. Influencers can help connect shoppers with deals in an authentic way that is proven to drive conversions—but they can also do so much more.

Building a portfolio of influencers with differing demographics, audience sizes and personal interests can bring a multitude of benefits. Brands new to influencer marketing often make the mistake of thinking influencers with larger audiences automatically deliver the most bang for the buck. However, depending on their goals, sometimes the little guys can drive more return on your marketing investment.

Macro influencers—established influencers with large followings—are most effective for driving brand and product awareness, while working with a micro influencer—one who is newer and working on growing their following—provides a more targeted opportunity to convert direct sales with an affiliate strategy. Working with influencer marketing networks that support both micro and macro influencers through appropriate commissioning structures like pay-per-click and cost-per-acquisition will empower advertisers to drive more diverse traffic to product pages while building long-term relationships with influencers as they grow their audience, brand and authority.

Beating the back-to-school clock

Even though we are well into the back-to-school season, marketers still have a chance to get in on the game. Nearly one out of three parents don’t start their shopping until August—which also means they’re on a deadline to buy everything to start off the school year at once, and they’ll be looking to influencers for inspiration.