4 Ways to Profit From Back-to-School Spending

Back-to-school sales (including back-to-college sales) are projected to hit $83.6 billion this year, an increase of more than 10 percent over last year, the NRF says. Clothing, electronics, shoes and school supplies are the top categories for back-to-school purchases.

Although online shopping has been growing by leaps and bounds, when it comes to back-to-school, the National Retail Federation (NRF) says most parents and children prefer to do back-to-school shopping in physical stores. However, almost half of those surveyed expect to do online shopping as well.

How can your e-commerce business attract more back-to-school shoppers? Try these tips.

  1. Provide as much information as possible about products. Both parents and kids go online to research products before they buy. The more details you can give them about products they’re considering, the more likely you are to persuade them to purchase online (and the fewer returns you’ll have to deal with). Include multiple product shots, detailed descriptions of each item including dimensions and weight, and add video if it helps show off a product to its best advantage. Product reviews will also help students and parents pull the trigger. Encourage shoppers to review items they've bought by sending follow-up emails after the product is delivered.
  2. Target the college market. College students are more likely than younger students to purchase products online, especially if they need their items shipped to distant colleges. This age group also needs a wider variety of products, including furnishings for dorms or apartments, home decor and kitchen supplies.  Some 44 percent of college students plan to buy online, the NRF reports. Try creating back-to-college lists, college survival lists or university-specific product checklists to make shopping easier for students. Share the lists on social media and your website, using SEO to draw attention. It's also a good idea to create separate marketing campaigns for college parents and students. Your parent-oriented campaigns can emphasize preparation, cost savings and getting the student off to a good start with their education. Student-oriented campaigns can focus on things like the coolest products or the "must haves" that will help them stand out at school.
  3. Don't stop back-to school marketing after school starts. Schools begin at different times across the country, and as an e-commerce business, you have the opportunity to market to students everywhere. Besides, today's back-to-school season extends much longer than it used to. According to The NPD Group, there’s a growing trend of parents waiting until school has already started to purchase some of their kids' back-to-school supplies. For example, children who come home from the first day of school clamoring for a certain type of notebook or a brand of shoe that everyone else has can prompt last-minute purchases.
  4. Prepare your e-commerce website for success. A mobile-optimized website is a must to attract smartphone-obsessed students and busy mobile moms.  Also make sure your e-commerce website is simple to navigate, with a streamlined checkout process so shoppers don't get impatient. Set up triggered emails to keep reaching out to customers who leave items in their shopping carts or browse without buying.

Taking a few simple steps to target back-to-school shoppers can put your e-commerce business at the head of the class.