Best Practices for Back-to-school E-commerce Success

The Back-To-School (BTS) campaign is the second largest shopping season after Christmas. In the 4 to 8 weeks prior to start of classes, there will be more than $75 billions in sales, directly related to BTS. The majority – around 65%, will go towards apparel and electronics. 2016 is already a record year with an estimated average of $674 per shopper, and a 7% increase in comparison to last year’s $630 average.

The major difference between Back-To-School and the Holiday season is that BTS is needs-driven. Shoppers are much more price sensitive and not willing to open their wallets as much as during the holidays. In fact, according to a National Retail Federation survey, more than 60% of shoppers plan on going to discount or department stores to find the best deals.

A segment that has seen one of the most dramatic jumps in revenue during BTS is online shopping, which has experienced a 30% increase in the past few years and accounts for over a third of total BTS sales.

With all these trends coming to shape another successful Back-To-School season, how can a retailer make the most of his ecommerce tools to take full advantage of the opportunity? Here are the best practices you should consider when crafting your strategy:

  • Make Sure They Can Easily Find You

Because BTS shoppers are price sensitive, they tend to research a lot more than in other holidays like Halloween or Christmas. A large share of BTS shoppers will start researching products on their checklist early in the season. By July, 65% will have conducted product research. With this in mind, it’s important for merchants to start advertising promotions early on, as customers will be doing comparison shopping to find the best deals.

  • Provide Convenience and Efficiency

Despite the many advantages of online shopping, some families have a “go and get it done with” mentality. They find it more convenient to go to a large brick-and-mortar store with their checklists and try to complete all shopping in one visit. These are people who are looking for efficiency and convenience, and that’s exactly what online retailers can to market in order to lure these customers to their webstores.

No customer wants to go through the hassle of crowded aisles in search for notebooks and post-its. Create your marketing campaigns with a focus on the added value of being able to find all products on the checklist quickly, in one place, at the convenience of one’s home. This will catch the attention of customers who see BTS shopping as a chore.

  • Develop Omnichannel Offers

65% of American shoppers will use at least two different channels when making a purchase, and half of all online shoppers will buy an item online and choose to pick it up in store. This is why online merchants can benefit from promotions that work across multiple channels.

Think about how you can make customers’ lives easier. First step might be to enable the buy-online-pick-at-store feature. You may even take it further by offering flexible returns, allowing them to return items either to the store or by mail. Remember to keep things simple and convenient and you will outrun your competition.

  • Optimize For Mobile Commerce

As in most of retail, mobile has a big presence in BTS sales. In fact, 73% of parents used mobile devices to purchase BTS items last year. To take full advantage of this cross-device traffic, make sure your website is mobile friendly and fully responsive. Customers will be researching and shopping on the go, and you must be ready to serve them wherever they are shopping.

  • Reward Your Most Loyal Customers

Use loyalty campaigns and rewards programs to target visitors who have previously purchased from you. You can reach out to your existing database either through email or text messaging to advertise your BTS promotions, offer digital coupons and invite them to visit your website. You can also utilize retargeting campaigns to drag back shoppers who have been to your website and re-engage them.

  • Get Social

Although the parents are the ones who hold the key to most of the money, kids are the final users of everything being bought and their input is essential for the purchase to take place. When BTS shopping, kids usually have three priorities on their list and they are clothes, clothes and clothes. After all, as many parents know – looking good in the classroom is very important. But who defines what looks good?

As we all know “looking good” is a fluid concept and in that regard kids are very much influenced by their peers. And as we know, kids use social media as the main channel for communication and sharing.  After Facebook, the most popular networks that have the potential to affect sales are Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, each with their specific rules for marketing and advertising.

Make sure to utilize these social platforms to reach the end-users of your products, the kids, and tailor your language to appeal to both parents and kids. If you’d like to know more about how to utilize social media in your BTS strategy, watch our webinar on how to market and sell on Pinterest here.

  • Utilize Online Traffic to Collect Data

Take advantage of the increased traffic brought by BTS season to learn as much as possible about your customers. Build a campaign landing page that collects data about the visitors and reward them for their information with coupons or special offers. Once you have that information, you may then use the segmentation tools of your e-commerce platform to create targeted campaigns and drive more traffic, repeat business, and conversions.

  • Reduce Product Search Time

This is actually a general best-practice that will help you increase sales year-round, but has a special importance during BTS season. As we mentioned before, BTS shoppers don’t want to waste neither time nor money. So it is your job to optimize your website and offers to allow customers to easily find what they are looking for. Make search prominent and make room for product suggestions and complementary items, so that shoppers may easily go from one product to the next. Offer bundle deals on your product pages, so that not only are customers getting a better price, but they are also able to check off more than one product at once.

Remember to display stock availability to avoid checkout inconveniences, such as running out of stock before a purchase is completed. Finally, reduce search time by making it super simple for customers to read reviews on your website. To that point, you may easily increase the number of reviews for your products by offer customers incentives (cash value or loyalty points) in exchange for reviews of products they have recently purchased.


Back-To-School is only one of the many opportunities retailers can tap into, in order to drive revenue. This post is the first in a series of strategies, tips and techniques we will discuss and share in order to better prepare the online merchant for all the upcoming shopping seasons. Make sure to sign up to our email list so you never miss a post.

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