A Visual Guide to Social Media Marketing During the Back-to-School Season

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Tips for making the most out of your marketing strategy during a busy season

Every year about this time, more than 76 million k-12 and college students head back to U.S. schools. That means billions of dollars are being spent as parents hit the stores to stock up on everything from pencils and fruit cups to shoes and learning apps. The National Retail Federation expects American shoppers to spend $80.7 billion on back-to-school purchases this year. Brands and marketers looking to tap into the deluge of revenue that’s officially ending the annual summer slump will need to invest time and resources into building well-planned social media campaigns.

Back-to-School Shoppers x Social Media

Remember the days when parents relied on paper sales circulars from nearby retailers to tell them where the deals were? No more. Most parents are relying on their phones, their social networks, their email inboxes, and a few well-chosen apps to help them with back-to-school shopping.

More than half of back-to-school shoppers (53 percent) plan to use mobile to shop this year, and 57 percent of shoppers grab coupons and discounts from their phones. Shoppers now use their phones at every point on the path to purchase to research products, check inventory, compare prices, make purchases, and leave feedback and reviews once they are done shopping.

E-commerce also plays a growing role in back-to-school shopping. This year, 55 percent of shoppers planned to delay their purchase to take advantage of midsummer Amazon Prime Day and Christmas in July deals.

E-commerce now accounts for one in every three dollars spent on back-to-school items. That’s huge when you consider that four years ago, that number was closer to $1 for every $13 spent.

As expected, moms will be leading the back-to-school shopping, so it makes sense that retailers would want to target them on social media platforms like:

  • Facebook, where 1 in 4 parents go for back-to-school outfit inspiration for their kids

  • Instagram because 46 percent of millennial moms rely on social for recommendations before making a purchasing decision

  • Pinterest, which 47 million shoppers used to find back-to-school ideas

But don’t leave fathers out of the mix. Dads do their fair share of shopping as well, and typically outspend moms by $115 at back-to-school time. Seventy-percent of fathers also comb social media for parenting tips and feedback for their own purchasing decisions.

Surprisingly, teens and pre-teens are also getting in on the shopping, contributing up to 5% of total household k-12 spending on back-to-school items. And anyone who has been within earshot of any teenager knows they live on social media.

Personalization Matters in Back-to-School Marketing

Today’s shoppers demand a lot from brands compared to school shoppers a generation ago. Today, Generation Z teens and Millennial parents expect brands and retailers to customize their shopping experiences for them. A good example of customization is Target’s School List Assist.

The app finds supply lists for neighborhood schools and allows shoppers to add those items to their virtual carts in a matter of just a few clicks. A parent only need enter his zip code, the name of the school, and his child’s grade and the supply list is populated automatically. Shoppers can also see which items on the list are in stock at their nearest store.

Partner with Social Media Influencers

Influencer marketing has been the chatter of the marketing world for several years now, and for good reason. It is one of the most effective ways to reach large and small segments of your target audience in a way that is both creative and non-invasive. Fact is, bloggers create tons of back-to-school content every summer and fall. Partnering with popular bloggers who can create branded content and deliver it to your audience delivers several important benefits:

1. Social Proof – An endorsement from an influencer acts as a powerful instance of social proof. Nearly half of consumers today rely on social media for product recommendations.

2. UGC – User-generated content is the content bloggers/influencers create for your campaign. If you negotiate for full content rights, you can reuse the content from your campaign across your own branded channels in ads, on your website, and in other marketing collateral.

3. Increased Visibility – Platforms like Instagram are go-to spots for new product discovery. Ninety-one percent of influencer campaigns are launched on Instagram. Both Generation Z and Millennial social media users actually use Instagram as their go-to platform for finding out about new products.

4. Boost Brand Awareness – According to The Drum, 58 percent of consumers are more receptive to TV ads they’ve seen on social media first, and 47% of consumers find them more memorable. This means influencer marketing goes beyond just getting impressions and actually helps boost your brand awareness and recall.


The team at The Shelf has released its annual Back-to-School Sales and Marketing Infographic, packed with more than 150 data points and a selection of handpicked marketing strategies to help you map out your marketing campaign. Use this infographic to get the insights you need to really refine the targeting for your 2019 back-to-school marketing.

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