7 Great Back to School Marketing Ideas

Back to school spending is up, with the National Retail Foundation noting “Total [back to school] spending is expected to reach $24.9 billion. Additionally, indicating the continued growth in the back-to-school arena, families on average have spent 42 percent more on school items over the past 10 years.” Along with this market growth comes a breadth of marketing opportunities for those in the retail and service industries alike to take advantage of.


Back-to-School Shopping Market

Understanding your target audience is imperative to every marketing strategy. When it comes to back to school shopping season, you’ve got a broad audience to potentially target – from teachers to grade school kids, college-bound young adults and their parents. Small Biz Trends illustrates the roles that parents and children have in school shopping, explaining: “Despite the parents’ eye on the purse strings, kids still influence purchases. Nearly 10 percent of parents say all of their back to school spending is influenced by their children, while (34.8 percent) say at least half of their back to school spending is influenced by their children. Of course, kids have their own money to spend, too. Teenagers will spend $913 million of their own money on school items, with the average 13 – 17 year olds shelling out an average of $34.40. Preteens will spend an average of $22.27 of their own money.”

Back to school spending from different consumers means that its marketing game is big enough for everyone to join in – and the number of creative strategies to win only multiplies. It doesn’t matter if you’re a uniform supplier or a big box retailer, or even if you’re not too closely tied to the school industry – almost anyone can benefit from back to school marketing strategies.

7 Great Back-to-School Marketing Campaigns and Strategies

  1. Two tried and true strategies for Ecommerce retailers are free shipping and “gifts with purchase”. According to NRF, 9 in 10 online shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping – so nixing shipping fees for back-to-school shoppers is an enticing feature. You may also wish to provide free gifts with purchase, such as funny pens or three-ring notebooks branded with your logo. School-related giveaways are more likely to be used by students, which in turn creates more visibility and recognition for your brand in the classroom.
  2. Other giveaways can take a bit of a tongue and cheek approach. We know that back-to-school shopping can be both a financially and emotionally stressful time, especially on parents that are preparing for their child to move away to college or their first kid to enter kindergarten. You can give away free wellness products like stress balls or self-care kits, or raffle off spa vouchers to your customers to let them know you sympathize with them during this hectic time of summer.
  3. Raffles are a great way to attract potential customers. Raffle off bigger-ticket items, like graphing calculators or backpacks via social media (or the traditional business card drop in a bucket). Consequently, you’ll gain contact information of potential customers that can be used for future marketing campaigns.
  4. Donating is a great way to get involved in the community and build goodwill between your brand and customers. A large number of schools nationwide are underfunded, so you can make a big difference by making a cash donation or providing a large stock of classroom supplies during the end of the summer.
  5. Back-to-school marketing seems to be an easy game for retailers, but what about those in the service industry? Think about what value your company can offer to parents, students, teachers, and the school in general. Hold a “half off haircuts for students” day at your salon or “free school uniform tailoring for first-time customers” at your dry cleaning shop. Also take advantage of end-of-summer nostalgia by offering discounted student tickets to a local water park or mini golf course.
  6. For many students that are coming back to school after a long summer, they want to make a great first impression with their back-to-school outfit. If you are an apparel retailer, consider holding a contest where students can design their own product or print for your brand. Take a note from major retailers like Vans, who holds a design-your-own shoe contest for high school students.
  7. It may seem early, but now’s the time to get in on academic and sports sponsorships. This could be anything from getting your name on the Little League team’s jerseys, to store discounts offered to Honor Roll students to recognize their academic achievements.

These are just seven marketing recommendations for how to get into the back-to-school sales game. With students of all ages, alongside the support of their parents, your target market is broad. There’s a multitude of creative ways for you to profit from the back-to-school market!

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Rebecca G.

Reviewed By: Rebecca G. - Marketing Specialist, Sales Success

Determined marketing sleuth and promotional products strategist who persistently infiltrates the Sales Engagement Studio like a seasoned ninja. Cause marketing champion and implementor. Internal communications trail boss responsible for delivering insightful insights to entire organization. Dedicated Culture Club groupie, company store prognosticator and snowboard devotee.