Back-to-school season is in full swing. From backpacks and notebooks to laptops and beauty products, there’s no shortage of needed school essentials. This time of the year is especially critical, with many shoppers having waited until now to start their shopping. In fact, a recent National Retail Federation survey found that 76% of back-to-school customers still haven’t started their shopping yet. For influencer marketers and content marketers alike, this proves to be a big opportunity for back-to-school marketing content.
Influencers and content marketers have a lot to do during these next few months to keep students well equipped for the upcoming school year, but creating content for back-to-school shoppers can be tricky. This guide is a one-stop-shop for all your back-to-school content needs, from who the customers are, to what they’re looking for, and how you can create great content that gets them to click “buy now.”
1. Students and Parents: Their Roles in Back-to-School Shopping
There are two types of back-to-school shoppers: students (the shoppers who use the products being purchased) and parents (more often than not, the ones making the purchases).
Students, from middle school to college, have an increased influence on what gets purchased during back-to-school shopping. Previous data from the NRF show that the older a student gets, the more involved they want to be in the buying decisions. Parents are more than willing to go along with these opinions and purchase what the student recommends. For example, a May 2018 survey on eMarketer shows that children have at least some influence on the purchases that mother’s make for items like school supplies, food for lunches, and clothing. Additionally, a 2016 report from eMarketer shows that 59% of parents said that they were influenced by “my children’s preferences” for back-to-school items – the most influential factor of any other category!
Students have more influence on the purchases being made, but parents are the one making the purchases and have the final say in what gets bought. The foundation of a successful back-to-school marketing campaign, therefore, is understanding that both these consumers have roles to play in the buyer’s journey, albeit at different parts of the process.
2. Customers Prefer Different Social Media Outlets
Shoppers will be using a multitude of social media platforms at their disposal to discover, research, and purchase back-to-school products this season. However, different customers will gravitate to different platforms. Almost one in every four parents will use some form of social media to assist them with their back-to-school shopping this year, according to eMarketer. Additionally, most brands are already experimenting with new ways to use influencers as part of their back-to-school marketing strategy, which now includes having an influencer visit a physical brick-and-mortar location. Content marketers and influencers may want to think beyond the digital landscape with their partnered brands and interact more closely with their followers. This could include working with the brand to step away from the keyboard and into a physical location.
3. Creating a Back-to-School Marketing Content Calendar: What to Publish and When
Back-to-school shopping is the longest shopping period of the year. Customers will be shopping throughout the summer and into the fall for back-to-school products, but buying behaviors show that consumers tend to buy certain products during certain months. For influencers and content publishers looking to create a content calendar, Rakuten Marketing data insights on consumer behaviors identified some key shopping behaviors for late summer and early fall:
- August: There were several significant verticals that peaked during the 2017 back-to-school shopping season in August. These verticals included footwear, food and drink, office products, consumer electronics, and small appliances. While office supplies are fairly self-explanatory, consider verticals like food, footwear, electronics, and small appliances. These all point to not only back-to-school shoppers but back-to-college as well – especially small appliances. Many college students will want to have the right appliances to make their dorm life comfortable and safe, so content marketers should consider leveraging perspectives not only for traditional back-to-school shoppers but also include back-to-college aspects. Furthermore, electronics, footwear, and food can all point to shoppers of any age, so make sure when you’re introducing this content you’re making it clear who this content is directed for. College students will have much different electronic needs than a middle schooler, so be sure to make that distinction.
- September: Back-to-school means educational supplies, and not just pens and pencils. Education products hit a peak during September – whether it be course-specific software purchases or textbooks, students need the right tools for the classroom. Content marketers can help make this easier by helping students find opportunities for deals or cashback, or simply where a student might find a cheaper, second-hand copy of a particular textbook.
- October: Education continues to be a high priority as more students are getting the necessary software, programs and textbooks for the classroom. Meanwhile, electronics has a small bump as well.
- All Season: You can never go wrong with apparel, which remains hot throughout the entire back-to-school shopping season.
When you plan your content calendar, be mindful of when people are looking to buy products.
4. A Big Influence from Influencers (and Content Marketers, too)
Social media and blogs are huge influencers for back-to-school shoppers, especially students. According to a 2016 Back-to-School Shopping Preview from eMarketer:
- 57% of teenagers learn about fashion through blog posts
- 47% of teenagers say a blog post influenced a purchase
- 58% of millennials say that social media posts were their biggest influence in a purchase decision
- 53% of teenagers ages 13-17 agreed with millennials about social media’s buying influence
In addition to the influence that influencers and content publishers have, some of the key social channels that will be utilized by retailers include Instagram (69%), Facebook Live (67%), and Snapchat (56%).
Influencers and content publishers are at an advantage, commanding almost 50% across the board from capturing a student consumer’s attention to influencing their buying behavior. Additionally, they have a leg-up in helping brands reach their audiences by already knowing the best ways to communicate with certain followers on these platforms. Offer deals that can be applied in-store or through e-commerce, and have those offers available on both blogs and social media. Work with advertisers to help find what deals can be used in this fashion, and then use them.
5. Students Get Products, Parents Get Tips
As a content publisher, you’re creating offers for two types of consumers – the student (the person who will be using/wearing these products) and the parent (the person who, more likely than not, is paying for them). It’s important to be able to sell to both of these consumers so, when it comes time to make a sale, all the heavy lifting will have been done. This means creating content that reaches each of these consumers, without making the content promotion.
Students should be sold on products. Let the students see what’s available to them, and show them why that product might be right for them. For example, if you’re selling students on types of laptops, talk about what sort of usages the student could be getting out of it on both an academic and personal level. A graphic design major and a computer science major might need similar computer specs, but their usages (from software to social) will be entirely different. Focus on how the computer addresses their usage needs. Be informative and helpful, as this is the type of content that students value.
Parents, on the other hand, get tips. The value in content for parents doesn’t come from selling them on a product or giving them an option of products to choose from, it’s helping them understand what their student will be looking at – and what they should be considering as well. Following the example of laptop buying, a parent might need a guide to help a student pick the right computer. This would include helping the parent understand what questions they should be asking, what types of software they should be seeking out, the pros and cons of certain models, and so on.
Understanding how students and parents each factor into back-to-school purchases makes content creation easier, but knowing how content for students and parents differentiates is the key.
6. Visuals are Key
Regardless of the type of content publishing your platform is built around, there seems to be one universal truth when it comes to content publishing for back-to-school: visuals are critical. Students and parents alike want to see what they’re considering, especially when it comes to fashion, beauty, and other “visual” products. Creating content is good, but creating visual content such as videos and image galleries? Vital. Having content that’s visually-driven captures engagement, and the chart shows just how much brands will be looking to leverage visual-based platforms. Capitalize on this by utilizing video and images, and even take advantage of live streaming’s rising popularity by hosting back-to-school live streams. And make sure you’re utilizing the most popular visual-platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are a few great ones!
7. Content Done Well is Evergreen
Here’s the thing about back-to-school shopping season – if you create content that is well-rounded and informative, the content will be applicable next back-to-school season. You may need to update it (fashion trends and electronics change each year) but if your “Back-to-School Essentials Checklist” covers the essentials and resonates with people, there’s no harm in providing an update and re-using the content. Things like “How to Find the Perfect Laptop for Your Major” or “15 Life Hacks to Finding Great Back-to-School Beauty Products” won’t drastically change from year to year, and the same goes with social media posts and videos. Create content that can be published for years to come. Consider short-term as well as long-term since it will make future back-to-school marketing efforts much less time-consuming. Point in case? This very blog post originally published two years ago, is largely relevant today – with some key updates, of course.
This blog post was originally published by the author in July 2o16. It has been updated in August 2018.