Most Americans have fireworks, barbecues and beaches on the brain right now, but for retailers, it’s time to think about back-to-school. Good news for retailers from a new survey reported in “Chain Store Age”: The majority of shoppers prefer to make their back-to-school purchases in physical stores rather than online. Some 64 percent prefer physical stores when purchasing clothing, and 70 percent favor stores when buying school supplies. In other words, back-to-school is one season when it’s easy to compete with Amazon.com — that is, if you can get customers into your store. How to do that?
To get your share of back-to-school spending, the number-one factor is upping your social media game. Some 37 percent of shoppers in the survey say blogs and social media influence their back-to-school shopping choices the most, making it the biggest factor in purchasing behavior.
Social Media Tips for Back to School Campaign Success
Facebook is a good place to focus your social media efforts, since most moms — the major driver of back-to-school shopping decisions — spend lots of time there. (Of course, use your own data as to where your target customers congregate on social media to develop your social media plan.) Make sure your social media content is relevant, interesting, entertaining or useful — not promotional. For example, you could share ideas for stylish back-to-school outfits, a list of the essential back-to-school supplies, tips for school success, or even ideas for making the most of summer before school starts. In addition to creating your own posts, sharing content from others who are influential in the parenting world can help boost your Facebook presence.
This is also a good time to ramp up your advertising spending on Facebook. Facebook ads let you target your audience very specifically. For example, you could target your ads to parents of children in a certain age group, in a certain school district, or in the neighborhood near your store.
Pinterest is another social media hot spot for parents at back-to-school time. More than one-fourth (27 percent) of parents in the survey say they plan to use Pinterest to plan their back-to-school shopping. You can repurpose posts from Facebook or your blog as pins, create new pins and repin popular pins from parenting bloggers or websites.
You don’t need your own blog to reach out to back-to-school shoppers (although of course, it doesn’t hurt). Reach out to relevant bloggers that target parents and see if they will accept a guest post or two that provides useful or entertaining information to readers. You could also offer to send influential bloggers product samples in exchange for a review.
Don’t forget about traditional media, either. Traditional media is the biggest influence on what they’ll buy for back to school for 36 percent of parents in the survey, putting it close behind social media. Local radio advertising, cable TV advertising and print advertising in local publications that parents read are all effective methods for attracting back-to-school shoppers.
You should also make sure your online ratings and reviews are up to par. About one-fourth (27 percent) of parents in the survey say online ratings and reviews influence their back-to-school purchases the most. While people are generally looking at product reviews, rather than business reviews, it won’t hurt to check your store’s ratings and reviews and encourage customers to post new ones if you’re falling a bit short.
Finally, hone in on local search as a marketing method. Busy parents seek school supplies and other back-to-school buys on their mobile phones. Make sure your business is listed in local search directories so customers can find it quickly. Your listings should be comprehensive, with address, phone number and hours of operation easy to see at a glance. Including a click-to-call button in your listing makes it even easier for parents to contact your business. You should also do some online advertising based around keywords parents are likely to be using in their searches, such as specific products, low prices, etc.
Back-to-school season is just beginning. If you follow these steps now, you can have a profitable summer (and fall).
Back-to-school Shopping Photo via Shutterstock