Achieving Success In A Busy Back-To-School Shopping Season

By Anthony Capano, managing director, North America at Rakuten Advertising

With rising inflation and ongoing supply chain issues, marketers are pressured to make the most of every seasonal shopping event. The back-to-school shopping season is no different. A new survey shows that parents’ budgets aren’t being affected by these economic uncertainties, giving marketers a big opportunity to make the most of yet another busy season. In fact, most consumers (41%) are making no changes to their budgets or even the number of items they plan on buying over inflation concerns.

So, what can marketers do to make sure that they are capitalizing on this? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here. Instead, studies show that consumers have a wide range of preferences when it comes to where they look for back to school shopping inspiration and the incentives that they look for when making purchase decisions. Because of this, a smart, data-driven strategy is key to making the most of this back-to-school shopping season.

Getting the most eyeballs

Consumers aren’t flocking to just one place as a way to find their back-to-school shopping inspiration. Instead, they’re spread out among different touchpoints from online ads to retailer websites, social accounts, and beyond.

The first thing that marketers should consider is where their specific audiences are both on and offline. A retailer with traditional back-to-school items might find success investing in upper-funnel strategies that differ from a technology retailer, for example. Even further, back-to-school marketers that serve different audience demographics add an even deeper layer for marketers to consider. Brands selling dorm essentials won’t be targeting the same shoppers as brands selling backpacks and lunch bags. Marketers need to look at their own historical data to understand where it is that they find the best value in driving upper-funnel awareness.

Rakuten Advertising data shows that shoppers across the board are looking for shopping inspiration at many different touchpoints. Some of the most popular areas of inspiration for shoppers are retailer websites, social posts, online ads, and TV or streaming ads. Once a marketer understands which of these channels are popular among their specific audience, they should invest across each channel to make sure they’re reaching every potential shopper possible.

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Converting the sale

Simply getting in front of the most shoppers possible isn’t enough to truly make the most of this back-to-school shopping season. Instead, marketers need to get creative with their affiliate strategies to appeal to “how” consumers prefer to shop; not just focus on the “where.”

While inflation is, for the most part, not affecting back-to-school budgets consumers are still inclined to look for opportunities to save. They are feeling the affects of inflation at nearly every retail touchpoint – from the grocery store to the department store, gas pump, and more. For the past few years, consumers have evolved into “smart shoppers” who prioritize savings and incentives that give them a sense of gratification. They feel satisfied and successful when they have found and taken advantage of a great deal. In fact, a majority (68%) of consumers will often or always seek out some sort of incentive when shopping for back-to-school needs. Inflation has made this exponentially more relevant and back-to-school marketers need to make sure they are investing in incentive-driven affiliate strategies that will provide that rewarding feeling consumers seek.

Studies show that personal preferences of shopping incentives are pretty evenly split among things like buy-one-get-one offers, coupons, discounts, sitewide sales, and more. Smart marketers will look at this as an opportunity. They should invest in incentives that both offer consumers a great deal, but compliment their specific consumer’s shopping journey. Thinking back to the data that will help a retailer understand where they can reach their audience, pairing those investments with some sort of incentive to buy will help move the needle with performance.

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Let the games begin

Consumers are currently in the thick of back-to-school shopping. Studies show that consumers start thinking about their back-to-school needs around May or June, with most shopping starting in July. Marketers who have been adopting a data-driven strategy have likely found success with the early wave of back-to-school shoppers. As we continue through the rest of the summer, marketers who understand their audience and invest in strategies that both reach and incentivize them will continue to find success.

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