Give Your Back-To-School Campaign a Refresh With These 5 Tips

With about a month and a half until Labor Day – I apologize if that was a crushing dose of reality – parents (and some eager kids) have the new school year on the mind.

Independence Day has come and gone, summer reading lists are resurfacing, and teachers are getting ready to head back to the classroom. A fresh school year is looming, which means back-to-school promotions are coming if they’re not already here.

This is a busy and emotional time. Kids want to start the year with confidence, which means new clothes and devices. Parents, on the other hand, are more concerned with school supplies and healthy snacks.

This year, it’s expected that consumers will spend $82.8 billion on back-to-school and college shopping. According to the President and CEO of the National Retail Federation, Matthew Shay, “With the economy thriving thanks to tax reform and growing consumer confidence, we expect to see a very strong season.” Whether shoppers decide to buy now or wait for prices to drop, high spending will be in full-force.

Because the back-to-school season is approaching, a flood of colorful ads and can’t-miss sales will soon be taking over our feeds and screens. It’s more important than ever for your brand to stand out from the crowd. Like the holiday season, the back-to-school season can be overwhelming and noisy.

So, how exactly do you stand out?

Let’s look at five ways you can refresh your back-to-school marketing strategy.

You know that auditing is important. But how do you use an audit for future campaigns?

Your team may already have an auditing process in place after each campaign. But if you’re reading this and trying to remember the last time you ran an audit, then this is your sign to start.

Auditing is helpful in many ways aside from increasing your conversion rates and improving your SEO strategy. Auditing identifies what worked and what didn’t, making it easier to plan for the next campaign. With a campaign audit, you can spot gaps in your marketing strategy and figure out ways to fill those gaps.

Start with a review of the goals and see how your campaign aligns. Look for patterns within the data and form hypotheses about the successes or losses (or both). This can lead to fresh, informed ideas. Diving into your Google Analytics numbers can help you draw data-backed conclusions, too.

Head over to the whiteboard and get those ideas flowing.

Once you’ve audited your campaign, put some brain power behind an idea you haven’t tried yet – or better yet – something you’ve been wanting to try.

At this point, no one is unfamiliar with the term “influencer” in the e-commerce industry. This could be a great opportunity to dive into this world if it makes sense to do so. According to Statista, in 2017, 27% of U.S. parents with at least one child attending school in grades K-12 used social media for back-to-school shopping. This means that leveraging social media in all its forms will generate positive results.

There are always new methods to test out and – get this – complicated doesn't mean it will be impactful or successful. If dabbling in the influencer marketing world isn’t going to make the cut, have no fear. With Instagram’s seamless shopping tools and Pinterest’s Shopping Ads, there are ample avenues for you to promote your products.

Emotion connects customers to brands. It’s time to exercise those emotions.

As exciting as the back-to-school season is, it’s also an emotional time as well. Parents are nostalgic about their kids growing up too fast. Elementary-age kids are anxious about starting a new school year. College students are gearing up for another semester and trying to figure life out.

This is the perfect time to reach out to your target audience and show them how much you care. Exhibit A: Subaru’s “A Lot to Love” spot is brilliant, sentimental, and well-done. It’s a simple commercial that packs a lot of emotional punch. This can generate positive buzz around your product. Also, it can position your brand as a part of your customers' everyday life.

Yet, there is a catch to this approach. Using expert judgment, as you would with any other campaign, is essential when utilizing this tactic. Exhibit B: McDonald’s controversial Father’s Day commercial that aired last year. Many thought the spot exploited childhood grief to sell Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

When executed correctly, this is a great way to tell your brand story as it relates to your customers’ lives and adds a human element to your brand as well.

Utilizing an omnichannel approach is SO important. Here’s why.

According to the National Retail Federation, when it comes to shopping 57% of consumers will go to a department store and 55% will shop online. So, what does this mean? Be everywhere your customers are. That’s right, I’m talking about omnichannel marketing.

Your back-to-school campaign should seamlessly integrate across the channels of your choosing. With an approach like this, you recognize that your customers are most likely going to start their purchase journeys at different stages through channels they use on a regular basis.

A great place to start is by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. How are your customers finding your products? Is it easy for them to search, browse, and make purchases? Test the experience for yourself by placing an order, opening up a customer support ticket, and interacting with your brand via all avenues. If you spot any mistakes or gaps in the campaign, voila! You have the power to fix them.

Experimenting with channels you have not used before is another way to test your campaign experience. Exploring various mediums is the only way you’re going to know what works for your brand and ensure you’re not overlooking any opportunities.

Showrooming is alive and well, so take note.

Raise your hand if you’ve gone into a store to look around, or found the product you were looking for, only to go home and buy the product online for a cheaper price instead? This is showrooming and it is alive and well.

Many people like to scope out products they’ve seen online or heard about from friends to verify if it is something they want to buy. The allure of buying online is simple: products are usually found for less and there’s no stress of waiting in long lines.

Retailers loathe this consumer practice, and rightfully so. You want people to visit your stores and buy, buy, buy. But, all hope is not lost. Showrooming is a great opportunity for both brick and mortar AND online-only stores and here’s why.

With brick and mortar storefronts, you can use geo-targeting and data collection to send customers exclusive discount codes for visiting the store. If you’re an online-only shop, you can also use geo-targeting. Send people who have been to certain shops a unique promo code, which will encourage them to visit your site.

Showrooming is a thing. Let’s embrace it.

The back-to-school season is a huge opportunity to make a lasting impact on customers before the holiday shopping season. Identifying and creating solutions for gaps in your marketing strategy will help grow your brand and sales numbers.

There are many ways to make your back-to-school campaigns stand out from the noise. The most successful brands will shine due to their campaign's ingenuity and by knowing what their audience needs before they do.

WritingKat Ambrose