Behind big-hitters like Christmas and Black Friday, back-to-school represents the largest shopping season for both consumers and brands alike. From purchasing the latest clothing and school supplies for elementary school students to grabbing the trendiest electronics and dorm furnishings for college students — there are plenty of markets that benefit from the back-to-school boom.
According to Printful, $19.5 billion is what’s expected to be spent on apparel for students of all ages this year, and 48% of back-to-school shoppers plan on making online purchases. Whatsmore, the average back-to-school spending per household in the US has been increasing over the last two years — just last year, it hit $848.90.
And based on research from the National Retail Federation, it’s not just parents that are spending money, but students themselves. In 2021, the average US teenager planned to spend $46.46 of their own money on back-to-school supplies.
Clearly, the back-to-school shopping season provides a big opportunity for brands — but to catch this back-to-school wave, brands need to be ready to meet consumers’ needs and get the word out about their products and services.
This article will provide a few tips that brands can take on board when planning and rolling out their back-to-school campaigns in 2022.
What is “Back-to-School” Shopping, & Which Industries Benefit Most?
For most people, “back-to-school shopping” brings to mind pencil pouches, colorful binders, and backpacks — the staples of any student’s school supply list. But these days, back-to-school shopping encompasses so much more.
From dorm furnishings to electronics to sports apparel, it’s more than office supply stores that can benefit from back-to-school shopping in 2022. But in order to catch the back-to-school wave, brands need to be prepared.
The first question to ask yourself is: when is the back-to-school shopping season strongest in the country or countries where my brand sells its products? This will vary slightly from region to region, as different areas have different school schedules.
For example, most school districts in the US start the new school year around late August to early September — whereas the Australia and New Zealand school year begins in January or February. Therefore, it’s imperative that you know when you’ll need to roll out your campaigns to catch the pre-school shopping wave, which usually peaks in the weeks leading up to the school year’s beginning.
Next, you need to understand if the products your brand sells will be in demand.
While back-to-school shopping may primarily conjure up images of multi-packs of pencils and rubber erasers, according to data from Deloitte, the largest share of back-to-school spending in the US in 2021 went to clothing and accessories at 37.84%.
This was followed by electronic gadgets at 18.15%, computers, and hardware at 18.15%, school supplies at 16.92%, and — the newest slice of the pie chart — Covid-19-related items at 8.92%.
Thus, everything from fashion labels to tech brands can, and should, get in on the back-to-school craze — be it for in-person shopping or online sales. According to another study by Deloitte, in 2022, 49% of US consumers plan to shop in-store, while another 35% prefer online, and the remaining 16% are undecided.
This spells out opportunities for traditional brick-and-mortar brands as well as online-only brands — and both types would be smart to do research into predicted shopping behaviors for this year’s back-to-school shopping season.
Finally, you should conduct research to figure out how consumers plan on shopping this year.
According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, in 2022, 43% of US shoppers plan on “doing more comparative shopping online”, 42% will be “shopping for sales more often”, 35% will be “buying more store brand/generic products”, and 24% will be “using coupons more”.
Clearly, the last few years of the pandemic have brought about some real changes in the way consumers are shopping. Between 2019 and 2022, the percentage of respondents who chose “buying more store brand/generic products” rose by 46%, and those that chose “doing more comparative shopping online” increased by 54%.
Compared to previous back-to-school shopping seasons, this year, brands will have to work even harder than usual to win consumer attention and loyalty. Those that may have purchased brand-name products for years are now considering generic alternatives and consumers who used the “one and done” approach are now shopping around for the best deals.
Times have changed, and in order to keep business flowing, brands will need to step it up this year.
Ultimately, the most successful brands will be those that meet the changing needs of consumers, get creative with their promotions, and turn to consumer data to inform their product choices.
3 Tips To Ride the “Back-to-School” Wave in 2022
The pandemic changed so much about the way we live — from where we work to how kids learn. Smart brands know that, in order to not only survive but thrive, they need to move with the times.
Below, we’ll cover three tips brands of all industries can utilize in order to ride the 2022 back-to-school wave as successfully as possible.
1. Use Consumer Data To Identify The Products In Demand
The world is always evolving — and that’s definitely true when considering the last few years. What students wanted and needed previously won’t be exactly the same as what they’ll be looking for this year.
In order to have a successful back-to-school season, your brands need to know what consumers want. This is where consumer data from brand monitoring software or market research tools come in handy.
While it’s always a good idea to look to previous years’ data to identify which products sold well and which struggled, it’s not a fool-proof way to predict this year’s demands. In 2021, many students were still attending classes virtually, so certain back-to-school essentials like backpacks weren’t as high in demand.
However, with more and more schools starting back up with in-person classes, brands would be smart to dig deep into consumer data to identify which products students really want this year.
And yes, we did say which products students want — not parents. For decades, it was parents who called the shots as to what back-to-school supplies children were allowed to buy. But, according to data from Deloitte’s Back-to-School Survey from 2021, children are exerting a great deal of influence over parents’ back-to-school expenditure.
In fact, survey respondents admitted the following:
80% reported that their children have a moderate to high influence on their clothing and accessories purchases
75% reported that their children have a moderate to high influence on their electronic gadgets and digital subscriptions purchases
71% reported that their children have a moderate to high influence on their school supplies purchases
74% reported that their children have a moderate to high influence on their computers and hardware purchases
Clearly, it’s not just parents that brands should be targeting with back-to-school campaigns and ads — but also the students themselves.
However, brands should continue to advertise in ethical, appropriate ways — keeping in mind that while children do exert a good deal of influence over the back-to-school purchases their parents make, they are perhaps more susceptible to advertising than adults. It’s best to keep it all above board.
2. Keep Your Finger On The Pulse of New Trends
Like it or not, most students going back to school want to get their hands on the coolest, trendiest products. But just because you know what kinds of products they want doesn’t mean you know how to position said products.
What was in last year may not be in this year — so your brand needs to keep its finger on the pulse of what’s on-trend if it wants to rake in the profits.
For example, many consumers — especially older, Gen Z students — aren’t as invested in heavily gendered products. Blue for boys and pink for girls feels old-fashioned and behind the times. Thus, when many high school and college students are shopping for clothing, school supplies, or dorm furnishings this year, they may be on the lookout for more gender-neutral products.
Or, consider the fact that an issue like sustainability is of ever-growing importance to many Millennials and Gen X parents. This means that, in 2022, they may be considering more than just price when making purchases for their children.
It’s no secret that the pandemic led many consumers to reassess their priorities — and according to Deloitte’s Back-to-School survey, “sustainability and mental wellness are a focus for parents, giving retailers an opportunity to address new needs.” Furthermore, “sustainable shoppers spend 22% more than the average, and parents who are concerned about their child’s mental wellness spend 8% more than the average.”
Statistics like these are a perfect example of why brands need to keep up with consumer trends in order to be successful this back-to-school season — by giving consumers what they want and keeping up with trends, brands can put themselves in a position to generate more profit.
3. Don’t Underestimate Existing Customers
It’s a well-known fact that selling products and services to existing customers is a lot easier and less expensive than reeling in new customers. Did you know that existing customers are actually “31% more likely to spend more on their average order value with your business” than new customers?
Back-to-school campaigns are a great way to engage with existing customers and increase brand loyalty by offering them valuable bundles, discounts, and exclusive promotions. Sure, you can run back-to-school campaigns geared at capturing new customers — but never underestimate the power of your existing customers.
For example, a great idea for a back-to-school campaign would be to offer existing customers a special discount if they successfully refer a friend to your brand. This type of marketing, which is technically word-of-mouth marketing, is a great method of social proof — which increases brand awareness with new audiences.
Why? Well, it’s often more effective than other forms of marketing, as consumers trust their friends and family more than brands. In fact, according to SEMRush, “word-of-mouth is even more effective than paid ads, resulting in five times more sales.”
So, when rolling out your 2022 back-to-school campaigns which feature all of this year’s most sought-after products and hottest trends, make sure you dedicate a large portion of your attention to your existing customers. After all, they’ll likely be the ones bringing in the most business.
This year, back-to-school campaigns will (and should) look different than previous years have. After two-plus years of virtual learning, many students are excited to be back in the classroom — but that means their needs won’t look the same as they did in 2020 & 2021.
To have a successful back-to-school season, brands need to utilize fresh consumer data, keep up with trends, and create campaigns that cater to both new and existing customers. Whether your brand sells clothing, laptops, furniture, or writing utensils — we hope this article has provided you with some helpful tips to craft your own back-to-school campaigns.