Homework for Retailers: Social Media Strategies for the Back-to-School Season

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While on a good day it might still feel like summer, the back-to-school shopping season is already in full swing. Every year, parents, students and teachers across the country restock on school supplies, electronics, and clothing for the year to come, and savvy retailers are quick to cash in on the event.

Social media platforms are an integral part of the back-to-school retail ecosystem, as places where shoppers can research products, compare prices, seek recommendations, and gather inspiration. Frank Martin, SVP of Revenue at media technology company, Adaptly, discusses how retailers and advertisers can make the most of one of the most lucrative seasons of the shopping year.

An opportunity too great to miss

According to research firm Conlumino, last year’s UK back-to-school spend totalled at £1.45 billion; a 1.4% increase compared to 2014 sales. The season, referred to by many as the second most important retail phenomena after the winter holidays, has parents fork out an average of £236 per child, primarily on uniforms, sports kits, books and stationery.

Not too surprisingly, digital plays an increasingly vital role, with the overall increase in mobile usage leading to a corresponding rise in ‘mcommerce’.  A recent eMarketer report shows that mcommerce through smartphones in the US nearly doubled in 2015, to $39.4 billion, and is expected to rise by 49.9 per cent in 2016. As such, retailers and advertisers can’t afford to overlook the opportunity to connect with customers via mobile and social channels.

So what gives?

While in the past, retailers often focused their marketing efforts on pushing specific products, those in-the-know have started to shift their approach to connecting with consumers earlier on in the conversion funnel. Native ads on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, are not only effective in that they offer advertisers scale and targeting precision, but also enable them to take a full-funnel approach – from building awareness all the way to conversion. So how do retailers best capitalise on the great opportunities presented by social platforms, making sure their advertisements stand out from the crowd?

  • Consumers in general, and social media users in particular, have shorter than ever attention spans, so aim at keeping your content snappy and to-the-point.
  • Most back-to-school shoppers have purchased in previous years and as a result, retailer CRM data is key for targeting.
  • Use personalised content to drive home messaging for different kinds of parent groups such as ‘new mums’, ‘yummy-mummy’, ‘stay-at-home dads’ and more. Tailor the approach you take for each audience segment such as, for example, offering deals and promotions for parents while focusing on engaging content for students.

Although the end of summer is a bleak prospect, the back-to-school season represents a bright spot on the horizon for retailers. Social media platforms have changed how consumers research, plan for, and actually make purchases. Therefore, successful businesses understand the importance of building an integrated strategy when marketing across these channels.

The full article can be found online at Retail Shopfitting Summit.