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Successful Back-to-School eCommerce Strategies

Published: July 19, 2021

Author: Diana Gordon


Insights from the Experts: eCommerce Series. Diana Gordon, VP, eCommerce & Marketplace Strategy

After an unpredictable and tumultuous 2020, teachers and students alike are expected to get back into the classroom later this summer. With the return to in-person learning comes the usual back-to-school (BTS) shopping frenzy, and experts predict this year’s spending to reach new records, with Deloitte projecting a 16% increase YoY. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, hot-ticket items often fly off the shelves. This is leading to more consumers planning to do their shopping earlier than usual. The National Retail Federation (NRF) even found that a quarter of BTS shoppers had already started their shopping by early June, with spikes anticipated by mid-August.

We’re already noting some interesting upcoming shopping trends from consumer activity and surveys. For instance, more than half a million backpacks were sold during Amazon’s annual Prime Days event, and consumers anticipating in-person learning (64%, according to NRF research) are eager to trade in their lounge-wear as clothing and apparel categories are expected to be what kids are most excited to shop for. Deloitte also found that 34% of parents are still planning on leveraging online shopping with in-store pickup.

However, as consumers yearn for “normalcy,” there may be significant headwinds that could dampen the BTS shopping experience. Delayed shipping could result in inventory shortages, and although retailers planned their inventories to overcome this, there could be a run on the must-have items if consumers wait too long. Another headwind is cost, with surges in inflation and demand setting the stage for retailers to offer less promotions than in previous years. And even though the average planned spending per household is increasing YoY, many are still looking to stretch their dollar as far as possible.

What Brands Can Do

For brands and eCommerce marketers, BTS shopping is an important window of opportunity and can also be a good practice run for your holiday campaigns to ensure your approach is optimized for success. Here are a few tips as you prepare your strategy:

  • More and more shoppers are using social media to discover and buy products, so lean into product tags on Facebook as a way to help increase discovery with new shoppers.
  • Retailer media networks are a great way to replicate the in-store end cap in a digital environment, displaying your brand message across key category and search pages.
  • Plan for increased Q3 & Q4 advertising costs. All this increased demand has new and old competitors ramping up, driving up CPCs and CPMs.
  • Try reaching new audiences, by exploring partnerships with non-competitive businesses to increase exposure to those who might not already be familiar with your brand. For a good example of this, check out what Oreo recently did with their “Thins Protection Program.”
  • As we mentioned before, there is a very real chance of delayed shipping and product shortages, so inventory health and readiness health checks should be paramount in your plans.
  • Consider offering a buy now, pay later (BNPL) option. Adobe found that there had been a 215% increase in BNPL usage, and 60% of respondents from another study said they have already used that payment structure. This can lead to bigger average order values (AOVs) and more overall revenue.

With so many dollars up for grabs this BTS shopping season, eCommerce marketers should take full advantage of the strategies and tools available to them to expand brand awareness and sales opportunities. Interested in learning how 3Q Digital can help? Set up a meeting with one of our experts!

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