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7 Tips to Ace Your Back-to-School Campaigns

Written by: Laurie Cutts, Director of Marketing

With July behind us, the celebration begins for back-to-school retailers. Back-to-school spending accounts for $84 billion in sales, making it the second biggest shopping season. And this year, marketers are ready for the shopping frenzy that goes along with it all.

What’s trending this year is the multi-device purchasing path. Consumers are researching products on their smartphone and then shifting to their other devices such as their tablet or desktop to make a purchase. From moms to college students, back-to-school shoppers of all types are researching online, comparing prices and looking for deals before buying.


This correlates with the latest survey results from Deloitte LLP showing that 78% of shoppers plan to use their smartphones to assist with their back-to-school shopping this year. Social media is also on an upswing. In the same survey, they reported that 83 % of shoppers plan to use social media to find out about promotions and the number of social media users seeking reviews and recommendations jumped from 29 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2013.

If you are a back to school retailer, there are plentiful opportunities to capture parents and college students. Here are seven tips to ace your back to school advertising campaigns:

1. Build a Multi-Channel Campaign.

The trends show that shoppers are relying on multiple devices to research products and make online purchases. A recent study from Google revealed that 67% of US consumers start shopping on one device and continue on another. Make sure your online, smartphone and tablet ads are optimized with beautiful creative, compelling copy and they are effectively targeted to your intended audience to help drive visibility of your products. Tablets provide a rich canvas with larger real estate and ad format sizes, allowing for more advanced creative executions. Don’t forget to consider the touch driven environment and how the ad’s features will impact the user experience. A mobile optimized website will allow customers to easily checkout and complete their transaction.

2. Offer Specials and Discounts.

Advertisers featuring special offers and discounts will have an advantage since consumers are continuously on the hunt for deals. Think about discounts, same day sales, free shipping, events, specials, countdown offers, local offerings and how to drive customers off-line to physical store locations to provide an opportunity that entices immediate action. For example, Ebay has announced that it is the “go-to-place” for all-things school. Through online, social and mobile channels, the ecommerce site is promoting fashion, electronics, textbooks and school supplies and incenting consumers with daily deals (Cool School Deals) and offering free shipping on products until August 24th.

3. Try Remarketing.

If you haven’t tried remarketing yet, now is the time to do it. As shoppers are researching and comparing prices, reaching them with ads to remind them of the products they already showed intent with on your website is a great way to drive conversions.

4. Save Time and Money.

Back-to-school is only a few months, so shoppers are looking to use their time efficiently. When consumers are rushed, apps can help to create a checklist of must have items and offer discounts to drive purchases. For example, Target (with a fan base of over 21 million) has collaborated with Facebook to bring shoppers its new app, Cartwheel, which allows shoppers to earn savings on the social network and then cash in for good with their smartphones in Target stores. The effect is to bridge the in-store experience with Facebook and mobile to help shoppers discover personalized deals and products with their friends.

5. Support a Cause.

Cause marketing can help to form a connection with families. The campaigns that get the best responses are those that provide value to the audience you are targeting. This year Office Depot teamed with boy band One Direction for a multi-channel back-to-school campaign featuring limited edition back-to-school products that will be sold exclusively at the retailer. A percentage of the sales will be donated to support anti-bullying education. The results so far are telling. The campaign has already achieved notoriety with Google reporting that “One Direction school supplies” is among its top five back-to-school searches.

6. Add Social Context.

Shoppers love social reassurance for purchase decisions they are making. Create content or feature promotions or contests that encourage Likes, shares or comments. Successful Facebook advertisers are constantly innovating and creating content and offers that people are excited to pass along. This type of endorsement makes ads more effective from both a click and conversion perspective.

7. Test and Refine.

Analyzing your data and optimizing your creative, targeting and bidding are the keys to a successful campaign. Once a few “high value” customers and trends have been identified, you can profitably scale your campaign by targeting those customer segments that show the highest propensity for delivering the greatest lifetime value.


Consumers are increasingly using multiple devices and channels to shop. Keeping this in mind, it’s important for advertisers to be present on all devices and to provide value to consumers to guide them along the path to purchase. From apps to celebrity endorsements to special offers to remarketing, advertisers are leveraging a combination of relevant content, technologies and approaches to drive mobile, online and in-store sales. With advertisers opting for these larger and more sophisticated campaigns, it’s no surprise that big retailers are expected to have 14 percent year-over-year growth in back-to-school sales this year.

Do you have some great tips on running a back-to-school marketing campaign? Share your favorites with us in the comments below.

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