It’s now a well-known reality that shoppers start preparing for back-to-school as early as the start of July. This is a huge contrast to years gone by. Before the online retail boom hit full swing nearly a decade ago, back to school shopping was an end of August activity.
Now, the options are plenty and local businesses need to have all their marketing ducks in a row to compete with strictly online retailers who have no overhead. And, the ever-present big boxes who can offer money-saving deals 24/7 — 365.
Here are 4 back to school marketing tips to get sales moving in the right direction, so you’re not left suffering a cash lull throughout the fall leading up to Christmas shopping season.
1. Understand the timing of it all.
As mentioned already, students and parents are ramping up and looking for back to school deals right now, as of the date this post went up. That isn’t saying shopping has hit its summer peak yet for back to schoolers, it’s just that you’re missing out on the low hanging fruit if you think you can wait until August to get your retail head out of your beach hanging, golf playing lazy summer arse!
Market research from Bing tells us that back to school shopping peaks after the first week of August, wanes a bit at the start of September, then hits a mad rush leading into the last week of summer break.
2. Start blasting out tips and deals on social.
The simple reality of local retail these days is that people aren’t going to come back unless you ask them to. It’s not enough to charm customers with great service alone. You have to keep your business in the forefront of their reality. Banner blindness is a definite reality online. Offline, brick and mortar blindness is just as much of an epidemic for smaller retailers trying to compete with online stores and big box retailers.
You have to be social to compete. Blast out special deals weekly that cater to back to schooler’s needs. Offer honest product reviews of the merchandise you’re selling — compare and contrast to competitor’s brands. Offer other perks like snacks, free speciality coffee, smoothies, etc. Don’t forget about Facebook ads to drive social traffic.
3. Online advertising a must.
Unless you’ve made the executive decision that having a website and promoting traffic is a DUMB idea for a small business, you need to maximize traffic to your website. Offline retail shoppers still want to do their online research in advance of coming to your store. If your prices are competitive and the service is rock-solid, you need to get locals coming to your site to see what you can offer in terms of pricing and value-added service.
If you’ve waited until just now to think about organic traffic, chances are it’s just too late to get into that game for this back to school season. Start prepping for next year using this guide, then either figure out how to do some local paid advertising on Google, Facebook and perhaps Instagram, or hire a reputable firm to help you come up with some successful ads that target the timelines mentioned in the first tip.
4. Get them into your store!
An online sales presence is a definite must. You need to be able to take orders online and ship them in order to cater to customers who don’t like to leave the house or who don’t like going into a physical store to shop. However, to rehash the Bing study mentioned earlier, 90% of back to school shoppers will ditch their smartphone and head into a store to make the majority of their major purchases.
This could be due to the fact their older parents still hold traditional values toward shopping, or that it’s a great excuse for friends and family to spend time together by opting for a more tactile shopping experience.
If you don’t have your back to school marketing game in check yet, you’re already way behind the curve. Fall is just around the corner and for many of you, this is the time to make sure the lean days of fall don’t put a financial hurt on your business.
Are you ready?