A peek into the world of psychology through the lens of eCommerce professionals.

7 Powerful Ways to Nail your Back to School Marketing

Nikole Wintermeier | Aug 07, 2019
Retail back to school

Tell me why I Don’t Like Mondays… 

Back To School season is upon you, and contrary to the Boomtown Rats, that first Monday of school is exciting

Yes, your competition is capitalizing on Back to School trends, and you have a month left to come up with unique and exciting marketing campaigns. 

But Don’t Fret!  

Here are 7 ways to nail your Back to School marketing omnichannel. Get ahead of the curve this season!


Back To School Shopping is the Sexiest it's Ever Been

Back to School spending is expected to reach a record high for both college and high-schoolers at around 80.7 billion dollars in the US! 

This makes Back to School the second biggest retail-spending season (so, the second Most Wonderful Time of The Year).   

As retailers, I’m sure you’d like a piece of the cake. 


Back to School Tips for DTC Marketing: How To Get Started…

60% of shoppers are likely to start shopping approximately 4-6 weeks before school starts. 

This means that for campaigns, it's important to start early enough to get your Back to School ads, emails, and content out before your customers begin their shopping extravaganzas.  

For new apparel lines, sales or discount offers, timing is key. 

But in order to assess timing and get creative with Back to School trends, you first need to understand what the market is like i.e.: 

  • What do people want (this season’s marketing trends)? 
  • What are your competitors already doing (competitive landscape with the focus on Back to School)? 
  • What kind of opportunities are there to be creative and unique within this space?

So what you have to do is,

  1. Analyze your performance trends from your last year’s data to guide this year’s Back to School strategies and campaigns, 
  2. Do a comprehensive keyword search for trends/competition within trends. 

Basically, it all boils down to: 

Identifying opportunities to accelerate revenue growth. 

Simple, right?

Yet with everybody jumping on board Back to School, it’s up to you to be pioneers and innovators in the digital marketing space. 


Who is Your Back to School Target Audience?

In high school, I was more of a supplies-over-shoes kind of gal. But if I could go back to those prepubescent days, I would have definitely persuaded my parents to invest in Heely’s wheelie-shoes. 

heelys back to school 2002

Those were just the coolest. 

Indeed, children will likely inform over 21 billion dollars of Back to School spending, with the highest influence on clothing and accessories at 77%

Thus, optimize your campaigns omnichannel - from mobile to in-store - especially appealing to the purchasing power of millennials and Gen Z.   

To me, going “Back to School” meant fitting in and finding friends. These days, looking “fresh” is just as important. Be the retailer that can provide products for each of these Back to School desires. 

This goes hand in hand with,

Allowing all departments to have access to your Back to School market research to manage overlap, save time and money, and create consistent and cohesive business goals. 

And guess what? 

90% of shoppers plan to be active in late-July... 

So without any more delay, here are 7 powerful ways you can nail your Back to School marketing. 


1. Build a Beautiful Back to School Social Media Campaign 

How many times have you heard this one before? 

Yet you should know how important social media is as a platform to raise awareness about your brand and target your followers with social ads to keep them engaged. 

But using social media should be done in an honest and beautiful way. 

Meaning: don’t spam your audience and be transparent with their data use. 

And make it b-e-a-utiful! 

Personally, I only respond to ads that have personalized copy and visuals. Your social media strategy should leverage colors and design. 

Once you’ve done that

Invest in Facebook and Instagram ads in real-time by using live-stories (you could also use Snapchat, which has 203 million active users per day). 

What’s also important is to establish your target audience. You may think Facebook is the number 1 right now, but amongst teens facebook is “dead”

Furthermore, 16 to 24-year-olds spend an average of 3 hours per day on social media. Tweens and their parents will use social media to compare prices and quality for Back to School products. You want to be there with the best-in-class ads that aren’t spammy, providing honest reviews on all your products. 

Micro-influencers are a low-cost option for promoting your products on social media, and they also provide peer reviews. 

What’s all the fuss with reviews, you ask? 


Little Piece of Psychological Insight 

Both good and bad reviews drive purchase behavior. 

This is called the “Blemishing Effect” and boosts the credibility of both the brand and product (yes, even the bad reviews, because they are honest). 

Why bring up psychology? 

If you haven’t heard this before, we are psychology experts here at Crobox.

And although the psychology of Back to School may seem straightforward, it is still important to understand whilst using social media (in itself a form of Social Proof) to provide you with the tools for one-on-one customer engagement. 

The Psychology of Back to School is simple:

It is a stressful time full of social pressure for students, which means finding fashion for fitting in. 

Parents will try to motivate their children to succeed by shopping for best-in-class gadgets at the most convenient prices. 

Social media provides the platform for children to see what products their peers are buying, and how they are dressing. Harnessing the power of popular social media sites will allow you to nail your Back to School marketing, increasing your relevancy and relatability during this anxious time. 

Ok, that’s our little bit on psychology - we couldn’t help it (and we’ll do it again later. Sorry. Not sorry).   

What’s next?


 2. Make Your Web-Stores Mobile Friendly 

If you have a pretty banner suggesting a sale on supplies and this comes out all wonky on a tablet...well, how do you think your customers are going to react?

Therefore, make your site responsive

Or, in other words, build your site in such a way that the displays, buttons, fonts, and images adapted by device. 

Having a Back to School section that it is easy to find is key. If your website is too complex and hard to navigate, this will increase bounce rates and churn.  

Walmart does this incredibly well, by sub-categorizing Back to School shopping by age-cohort:


Walmart Back to School


One more thing about banners: 

They’re cool but may detract from the actual focus of your brand. IKEA’s Back to School section is an example of staying true to their branding, whilst still capitalizing on the trend:

IKEA back to school

Furthermore, what’s great about this IKEA Back to School landing page is that they understand who their shoppers are and have two categories that appeal to each of these segments: “Shop essentials” being parents, and “Shop your style” for children. 


3. Optimize Email Marketing Campaigns with Back to School Features

Email campaigns: the joy of marketing and letting your customers know, hey, I remember you and here are some cool products you might like. Email campaigns improve customer acquisition and retention. 

But first:

Use your customer data to segment your audience according to their demographics or psychographics to increase the relevancy of your campaigns. 

I.e: Who are you targeting with your 2 for 1 notebook sale? Is it, 

  • Future students or their parents? 
  • Are they girls or boys? 
  • Which grade are they entering? 
  • Do they prefer quality brands or discounted packages? 
  • What kind of backpacks have they already been on the lookout for? 
  • What kinds of trends, colors, or models do they engage with already?

If you email a campaign suggesting your new Miley Cyrus themed handbag line to a Jansport-totting boy of 16, this may not go down well. 

Without applying segmentation you could end up alienating your customers.

Segment, organize, and then innovate to come up with those personalized email campaigns that your customers will engage with.

In 2016, for example, Staples launched this:


staples back to school email campaign

People shop at staples for their low prices and ubiquitous supplies. Knowing this, the copy of the email highlights their seasonal discounts. 

Additionally, the Staples campaign was released omnichannel, where they had the “Staples Guy” talking through Back to School essentials on TV, radio, and youtube. 

This year, Staples’ Back to School campaign relates to teachers, even giving them a chance to enter a competition to win 10k.   

This is going the extra mile.

Staples becomes not just a supply-center, but a source of information. Coupled with their nation-wide low-prices, they have little competition during Back to School in the US.


Little Piece of Psychological Insight

Do your customers respond to, for example, “Scarcity”? 

Check out this Back to School email that leverages this persuasion technique by saying "Ends Today":

scarcity back to school campaign

You can tailor your email copy by grounding them in any of Cialdini’s weapons of influence to help your shoppers make better purchase decisions. 

Isn’t psychology great?


4. Make The Most Out of The High Demand for Apparel And Electronics 

54% of total Back to School spending is on - drum roll please - apparel and electronics. As if students everywhere were saying, “I’ll have the usual, please”

Yet although apparel has remained the most purchased sector over the past years, electronics is on the rise. Electronic gadgets are 50% bought online, making it the most bought category by channel. 

Therefore, have an electronics section that is easy to find on your web-store.  


Target content, ads, and offers online, that emphasize electronics to engage your customers and drive eCommerce interaction. 

As for apparel: why not innovate new Back to School clothing lines?

Analyze what’s trending and create fashion lines in response to it, in turn keeping your customers involved and delighted. Staying on top of the trends means, basically, staying cool. Word. 

For example,

Do you remember that “marble” aesthetic? 

I mean, I played actual marbles in school, but a few (ok, many) years after I graduated, I began seeing more and more students with marble-themed cases, faux-marble phones, and marble-colored backpacks: 

marble theme for back to school

Pop culture also influences Back to School shopping: think Marvel, unicorns, or even “Athleisure”. 


Little Piece of Psychological Insight 

More and more Mondays are seeing retailers appeal to the “cool kids on the block”. This Macy’s ad says it all with the copy, “fresh”, “new”, and “coolest”. 

Macys back to school

Novelty words are generally useful for Back to School campaigns because the first day of school is new, and students want to feel new and cool and fresh. 

Using psychographic data to understand which psychological principles your customers respond to best will help optimize your Back to School campaigns. Use focus groups, data, or interviews to get a 360-view of your customer. 


5. “Under Pressure”: Back to School Shopping Should be Easy 

Parents are mostly utilitarian (read about utilitarian vs. hedonic shopping states) Back to School shoppers, meaning they want to find cheap and practical supplies for their kids in a fast and efficient way. 

What matters the most is price, product, and convenience. 

Therefore, make the shopping experience easy and product information readily available.  

You could use bundles

Like, an all-in-one purchase of a black backpack, black lunch box, and black 2019 journal. Or: a marble laptop case, marble pens, and maybe even throw in some marbles for the heck of it!

In one-click, parents can buy all these supplies together at an overall discounted price, from cases to crayons. 


Little Piece of Psychological Insight 

Speaking of cases and crayons - make sure you don’t have too much choice overload. 

Back to School is in itself a rush with plenty of options already, and you don’t want to add to shopper’s anxiety by being too complex and having too much to choose from. 

Instead, minimalistic web-designs and grouping Back to School essentials together in an organized way will relieve the psychological stress of shopping by reducing decision fatigue (see more persuasive pricing techniques here), and influence customers to buy more. 


Make checking-out as frictionless as possible. 

You are, after all, competing with the likes of Amazon, whose one-click checkout will be the saving grace for parents running out of shopping time. 

Generating ease and convenience in Back to School shopping ties in with our second to last tip...


6. Provide Free & Fast Shipping With Deals & Discounts

...Which is the cherry on top for your shoppers.  

62% of shoppers plan to spend less than they did in 2018, and more and more parents are getting pre-season anxiety relating to the pressures of Back to School Spending.

Equip your marketing channels with desirable deals and discounts, designed to appeal to deal-hungry shoppers, but remember not to force purchases on your consumers. 

Instead, customize deals depending on who you are engaging with (I for one am a big believer in the promo-code).   

In addition to this, 

71% of shoppers use online carts to evaluate shipping fees and return policies. 

Imagine this scenario: 

I’m a parent of three. My kids claim they want to look fresh (their words, not mine) when going Back to School.

But Charlie, the youngest, is on a massive growth spurt, so will these clothes even fit him? 

Oh dear, oh dear. This causes hesitation before checkout.

But your web-store provides very few checkout stages and loads of product information. I also see that I can checkout using PayPal, which is great for me because I have a foreign card. 

Then I see “Free Shipping” and “Free Returns” and all hesitation is removed

Actually, over 46.5% of MSMEs say that free shipping increases their profits. 

Take Amazon’s Back to School section, which is completely deal-driven. 


Amazon Back to School

In fact, Amazon’s whole Back to School web-page is designed on the basis of a discounted purchasing experience, with prime exclusive savings, and the product tag “deal of the day” on various supplies-bundles. 

And there it is again: their one-click checkout provides a convenient and affordable fulfillment option, which helps them thrive during Back to School season.  


Little Piece of Psychological Insight 

During checkout, a good way to nudge people not to abandon their carts is by using trust symbols, which leverages Cialdini’s principle of “Authority”.  


trust symbols checkout


These badges will ensure key customer protection guarantees, reduces the emphasis on the cost, increases trust, and drives conversions. 


7. Bring ‘Em Back! Retarget Customers to Boost Retention & Loyalty 

How do you bring existing customers back to your web-store?

For one, retarget them using email campaigns, ads, and content based on your newly improved and optimized Back to School strategy. 

Which you’ve told all your departments about, right? With your strategy solid from marketing to merchandise, you can roll it out omnichannel. 


Now, retarget, because existing customers will spend 67% more than new ones. 

Highlight in your copy new Back to School themed discounts to pique the curiosity of previous customers. 

We’ve all seen that seasonal-email that offers such a big discount that it’s almost impossible not to click on it:

Nasty gal summer email campaign

Retargeting can also be achieved by offering customer loyalty programs. In this case, give Back to School promotions to your existing customer base online or in-store (i.e. giveaways). 


Little Piece of Psychological Insight 

Even though parents are utilitarian and want to fast-track the Back to School shopping process, that doesn’t exempt them from emotional marketing. 

After all, Back to School represents their kids coming of age and leaving the nest. It’s important that you stay connected with your customers on an emotional level (especially given this year’s financial pressures).  

Collect data on the grades your customers are heading into to customize your campaign copy and tailor your product offerings. 

Show your customers that you care and that you understand them.

Take inspiration from this TESCO ad... which is just super cute:  

TESCO back to school ad


More than 30% of parents plan to compare prices online before purchasing. 


Be the web-store that centralizes all the information necessary for Back to School shopping, including price comparisons and quality reviews. 

Foster an intimate relationship with your customers, leveraging emotion and appealing to the sensitive nature of going Back to School. 

Like Gap

Their Back to School commercial “Mantra” shows a class of kids chanting motivating lines back at their teacher such as, “we can do anything we put our minds too”. 

It’s simple, it’s short, it’s emotional, and I would full-on sprint to my nearest Gap after watching it if I could. 



Back to School is a massive opportunity for retail, especially if you are managing an eCommerce platform.  

To opt-out from leveraging this trend as a retail store would be to seriously miss out on increased revenue and brand awareness. 

Even if you don’t sell apparel or electronics, Back to School permeates all industries from food to furniture. 

You can’t escape it! 

So, use these 7 ways to stay relevant, get ahead of the curve, and increase customer engagement omnichannel. 

persuasion trend CTA

Subscribe to our blog!

Stay up to date with our monthly newsletter!