The school start season is just around the corner, but this year is a little different. Some students go back to the classroom while others learn virtually. As a retailer looking to promote your back-to-school products, your campaigns need to consider all types of different audiences and scenarios. In this post, we'll help you end the school year with the latest shopping trends, great news, and back to school must-haves for your campaign.

New changes in consumer behavior

Despite the disruption that COVID-19 has caused to families, schools and businesses, spending on starting school is expected to increase this year. According to Deloitte's Back to School 2020 survey, consumers plan to spend $ 10.4 billion online this back to school season, an increase of $ 2.3 billion over 2019.

Similarly, Fluent Pulse data shows that consumer spending patterns are increasing. 27% of Americans have increased their online purchases since they started using COVID-19, while 47% do the same number of online purchases.

For advertisers, there are opportunities for online shopping and low-contact options such as BOPIS ("Buy Online, Shop Pickup") as consumers are looking for affordable and secure shopping options to respond to health and financial concerns.

What factors influence your buying decisions? Price, convenience and security. 82% indicated that price was the most important factor, followed by 80% who named convenience as the most important criterion. However, 59% viewed security as an important element this year.

Some students return to classrooms in the fall, others study online, and a percentage may not return to school until 2021. How can brands prepare and for whom should they advertise? We show the different scenarios below and how retailers can respond accordingly.

Back to school scenarios and how retailers can respond

Scenario 1: Back to normal, punctually in mid-July, back to school shopping?

Call us optimistically, but if the schools open in time for the fall semester, retailers must be prepared for demand and ensure inventory levels are available. "Those who return to the classroom in the fall will need more items like pencils, handkerchiefs and more," said Ryan Wuerch, CEO at Dosh. He also noted an increased demand for cleaning agents that are required for disinfection during the day in addition to a surge in PPE equipment.

However, BTS sales in mid-July already look different this year. Amazon's annual Prime Day (usually mid-July) has been postponed indefinitely. The event is considered a transition to the start of back-to-school sales and will only take place in August. Without the Amazon event in July, retailers rely on their own high-discount promotions to compete with Prime Day deals.

When BTS occurs during the traditional fall semester, retailers need to consider nimble marketing channels that can be started and run quickly, such as: B. Facebook ads (compared to dynamic videos).

“Ecommerce websites need to make sure their supply chains are ready for the influx. At the same time, brick-and-mortar stores must highlight their hygiene protocol and introduce pick-up or contactless payment options on the roadside, ”said Gazzuolo, senior director of Paid Media, Wpromote.

Scenario 2: The return to normal takes longer and has an impact on the school semester in autumn 2020

Schools may open later or switch entirely to online classes. Some universities are considering postponing the opening until 2021. In this case, demand could decline in some categories, such as clothing and sports goods (for school teams), while electronics and other technologies for virtual learning could increase.

According to a SuperAwesome survey that provides marketing insights into children's data, 80% of parents have already invested in electronics and other technologies.

As a retailer, this opportunity could mean looking for new categories that you may not have considered before and using data points based on consumer surfing behavior to uncover new trends. For example, uncertainty about BTS causes parents to cover all the basics, which means that some items that are not on the school-start list, such as desks and other furniture, are purchased.

The stores could also take a geographic approach to school sales, suggested Jaysen Gillespie, VP, Head of Analytics and Data Science at Criteo. For example, if a state (e.g., Florida) opened its restaurants in July and New York has not yet, retailers may want to create different back-to-school events for different states.

In any case, retailers should push online as much as possible, as consumers get used to online shopping and beware of visits to the store. According to a Criteo study, retailers with physical branches and online presence saw a 68% drop in sales during the blockade of COVID-19 from mid-March to mid-April, but e-commerce sales fell by 133%. This adaptability enables companies to be successful not only now, but also in future events.

Relevant messaging: Personal or virtual classrooms, Gen Z is involved in decision making

While parents plan different scenarios, it is crucial for your campaign success to take both circumstances into account through personalized messages.

“Many retailers will be pretty promotional when they try to make up for lost sales. The winning tone is one that does not make the brand cheaper, but shows how the products are currently meeting the needs of the consumer, ”said Teena Sobczak, Director, Display at iProspect.

For example, a BTS marketing message for parents of young children could promote an affordable multi-purpose product: “We try to do as much as possible for our children. Think of product x in these difficult times. "

Retailers should also identify ways to make shopping easier for customers through shipping, return policies, and the buying process.

However, it is also worth noting that it is no longer just parents who make the purchase decisions. Last year, Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation noted that Generation Z children "are clearly more involved in buying decisions to start school than leaving the choice to mom and dad."

Regardless of whether families had to spend more time with each other or both parents and their children work from home, it is important to consider the diverse target groups that come across your campaigns.

Extra Credit: Back to School Must-Haves in one campaign

Here are some tips from our Strategic Account Manager Sanna Monga:

Despite the uncertainty of who will be going back to school this fall and where it will be easier, research shows that BTS buyers do not cut spending as quickly. Whether parents are looking for electronics to complement their children's online tuition or new school supplies for a personal experience, there is still demand for the busy shopping season.

As an advertiser, if you know it's important to stay agile and adapt to unprecedented times, remember to stay authentic and reliable as consumers approach school shopping. Retailers who can quickly respond to the changing needs of COVID-19 are likely to be the ones to stand out and appeal to consumers in the coming school year.

If you want to improve your social media results this BTS season, contact AdParlor to make sure your campaign is “top notch” this fall.

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