Back to School: Retailers making their way into classrooms

As someone who recently graduated from college, I know that “Back to School” promotions are flooding students’ lives all throughout the end of summer each year — reminding them of how soon they’re going to be in school again. As fall approaches and a new semester kicks into gear, I thought it would be interesting to dive into the kinds of marketing strategies around this time of year.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) conducts a survey every year asking consumers about their spending habits around the new school year. They’ve discovered that Back to School (BTS) is the second-biggest spending event of the year, following the holidays. In 2021, $37.1 billion is the expected total spending on back-to-school necessities.

These numbers show the work of companies aggressively promoting their products to win over parents and students. Many students will be attending classes in-person for the first time since early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so retailers are expecting sales to hit record levels. With this in mind, how are businesses approaching their back-to-school campaigns this year?

One retailer that makes its mark every year is Target. When entering a Target store around late summer, you’ll find displays throughout the store highlighting back-to-school essentials. Target not only sells to younger students, but they also appeal to college students with their “College Shop” displays throughout their stores. Large retailers strive to be a one-stop-shop for customers, so the more supplies they have in stock, the better. Although appealing to in-store shoppers is important, grasping the attention of online shoppers is even more crucial.

Winning over online consumers

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers became accustomed to shopping online since many physical stores were shut down. Stores have been re-opening, but there still needs to be a strong focus on getting those online sales. Immediately when clicking on Target’s website, they advertise back-to-school in bright, eye-grabbing colors. If you go further to their back-to-school specific page, you’ll notice even more colors and organized categories that make it simple to find supplies.

When retailers create unique designs and have easy navigation on their websites, consumers are more likely to spend more time on the site, eventually leading to sales conversions. During this busy time of year, it’s crucial to stand out amongst competitors on the internet where people have many options in searching for the best deals. One retailer that rose to the top at engaging online shoppers is Amazon.

Amazon has a vast selection of products and a quick & easy delivery experience that appeals to online shoppers. In a study conducted by Shopkick this year, 85% of online shoppers reported they are going to shop on Amazon for school items, with big-box retailers following behind at 69%. Most retailers are under pressure to make their online shopping experiences more competitive, including their mobile presentations.

Enhancing the mobile shopping experience    

Ordering items directly from your phone provides unmatched convenience that other devices can’t offer. Some people will still prefer to shop in-person or on a desktop computer, but mobile phones have been a staple in how people interact with businesses. We are constantly having ads thrown at us when we are on our phones, so businesses must strategize ways to make their mobile user experience stand out from others.

Optimizing for mobile is a great strategy for retailers to have while advertising their back-to-school products. Google discovered in a Consumer Report that users who visit a mobile unfriendly site are 61% likely to visit a competitor’s site instead. Parents and students looking to purchase supplies want their shopping experience to be simple and fast. Poor mobile landing pages can and will divert potential customers during back-to-school season.

The team at Jet prioritizes optimizing mobile user experiences for our clients because we have seen the benefits that come out of a positive business engagement through smartphones. The retailers that are going to be the most successful during the 2021 back-to-school season are those that have an appealing display in-store and online.


Alexa Marriott, Digital Production Coordinator

Alexa is always eager to take on new challenges and learn all that she can about marketing. With her degree in business and interest in digital and social media marketing, she works to elevate her clients’ online presence.

2021-08-30T15:07:55+00:00August 30th, 2021|