The Bidtellect Back-to-School Guide: Trends, Digital Strategy

The Bidtellect Back-to-School Guide: Trends, Digital Strategy

This year is expected to be filled with both excitement and anxiety as students approach the closest thing to normalcy since 2019. For brands, their 2022 back-to-school digital marketing strategies will need to make digital shopping as easy as possible, offer content that is inspiring, and maximize technology to reach shoppers at points of research and interest. 





of North American back-to-school shoppers say they’ll check for in-store inventory online before going into a store and 48% will shop at stores that offer curbside pickup or contactless shipping

of consumers expect personalized marketing and shopping experiences

of respondents preferred to both browse and purchase online when shopping for apparel

of U.S. shoppers are willing to wait more than two weeks to buy something if they want to take advantage of a sale, deal or promotion

Download our onesheet for more statistics and key takeaways you can implement now. 


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A+ Back to School 2021 Advertising Trends and Tips for Your Campaigns

A+ Back to School 2021 Advertising Trends and Tips for Your Campaigns

Could Back to School 2021 be the year that kids rejoice MORE than their parents? While families around North America gear up for what could hopefully be a “normal” or close-to-normal school year, retailers and advertisers are eager to jump at the chance to be the first to catch their dollars.

These are the trends advertisers and brands should keep in mind to reach students (and parents) navigating back to school shopping this year.

High Spending Predicted Thanks to Combined Excitement and ‘Back Log’

That’s right. Rightfully so, retailers like Gap are predicting “customer exuberance” and subsequent high spending as students and their grown ups look forward to returning to school in person. Students are looking to make a splash amongst their peers with new outfits, snazzy office supplies, and in-person activities like sports. Combine this with – in some cases – nearly two years of school at home, and retail sales will likely boom as shoppers play catch up. Deloitte predicts back-to-school spending will hit its highest level in recent years and NRF predicts 13.5% growth in retail sales YoY this year, expecting back to school to carry a heavy portion of the spend.

The Stats:

    • 2021 back-to-school spending will hit its highest level in recent years: $32.5 billion for K-12 students, or $612 per student, according to Deloitte. Back-to-college consumers will shell out $26.7 billion, or $1,459 per student (Deloitte).
    • The NRF predicts that retail sales will range from $4.44 trillion to $4.56 trillion in 2021, growing between 10.5% and 13.5% YoY.
    • Thanks to COVID, back-to-school cleaning services are even more in demand than ever before with schools investing up to 50% more budget in cleaning efforts in an attempt to keep students and staff healthy.
    • New estimates from Mastercard SpendingPulse show back-to-school sales jumping 5.5% YoY this year, with categories that cater to in-person activities seeing spikes.
    • Target is planning for “one of its biggest back-to-school seasons ever,” and smaller retailers like Gap are already feeling “customer exuberance” that is likely to bode well for back-to-school sales. (DMS Insights)

Happy,Little,Girl,Holding,Digital,Tablet,Ipad back to school shopping advertising digital trends

Back-to-school spending on computers, smartphones, and tablets is expected to reach a whopping $11.8 billion this year.

Where Will Back-to-School Shoppers Spend Their Budgets? Tech & Clothes

According to the latest reports, consumers will spend the most on apparel and back to school supplies, but technology is not far behind (and likely will grow in popularity each year). A year of virtual classrooms has led to a 37% increase in tech spending for K-12 students, and a 16% jump for college students. Back-to-school spending on computers, smartphones, and tablets is expected to reach a whopping $11.8 billion, with wearable tech seeing the most money (MorningBrew). And don’t forget the newest category: personal hygiene products.

The Stats:

  • 44% of surveyed households plan to purchase fewer “traditional” back-to-school supplies due to a renewed emphasis on tech (Deloitte).
  • Even as schools open for in-person learning, 58% of respondents said they plan to spend on online resources (Deloitte).
  • 37% increase in tech spending for K-12 students (Deloitte).
  • 42% increase in spend YoY in COVID-19-related personal hygiene products like wet wipes, hand sanitizers, and at home work stations (Deloitte).

Product Categories on Which US Back-to-School Shoppers Expect to Spend Most of Their Budgets (eMarketer)

  • 60% Apparel
  • 24% Back to School Supplies
  • 10% Technology
  • 4% Dorm Furnishing
  • 3% Books

Types of Digital Retailers Where US Back-to-School Shoppers Plan to Shop (eMarketer)

  • 85% Amazon
  • 69% Big-box retail sites
  • 27% Office Supply Sites
  • 25% Apparel and accessories sites
  • 15% Off-price retail sites
  • 15% Tech Sites
  • 14% Drugstore Site
  • 9% Home Essentials sites
  • 7% Digital grocer
  • 3% Other

Multichannel is the Move, Thanks to Ecommerce

Consumers became more comfortable with e-commerce (necessity breeds skill) during the pandemic, and so e-commerce sellers were able to generate massive revenue from selling products during the pandemic. The truth is, there has been such a massive increase in sales during the pandemic that the sellers might have needed the services of a firm like Seller Accountants (which is known for providing professional accounting for ecommerce businesses) to keep track of sales records and understand the profitability of their business. Anyway, this shows that shoppers are accustomed to online ordering like never before, and are also utilizing more of a multichannel approach like never before: they’re researching online, checking out products in store, returning to online sites, and more. Young shoppers and young parents will be the most savvy in this area, so advertisers need to appeal to their multi-channel habits and offer cross-promotions, inspiring content, online activations, and targeted strategies potentially involving user centered design methods to possibly embrace the excitement of going back to school.

Not only that, new parents might also be excited at the thought of one child going back to school, as they welcome another one into the family. The allure for new parents looking for things like old fashioned girl names, whilst in the middle of back-to-school season, although exciting, could affect them in many ways. Advertising with compassion and taking a helpful angle when it comes to reducing all the burdens on them could be seen as helpful as well.

“When it comes to shopping, it’s apparent now that the consumer does not recognize any lines of demarcation at all [between in-person and online]. Shopping is all one thing to them now, no matter where it happens.” (Matt Powell, senior sports industry advisor for NPD, DMS Insights)

The Stats:

  • US ecommerce sales are expected to grow 17.9% this year to reach $933.30 billion. Ecommerce is now on track to surpass 20% of total retail by 2024 (eMarketer)
  • 34% of consumers plan to use “buy online, pickup in store” and curbside pickup (Deloitte).
  • parents of K-12 students are twice as likely as those of college students to use emerging tech to buy supplies (Deloitte via MorningBrew).

Keep an Eye on Start Dates

We found conflicting research on back-to-school shopping, with some reports predicting earlier shopping and others predicting later-than-ever trips. WWD predicts that back-to-school will probably be starting off in August versus July, with retailers expecting a return to normal spending levels. Deloitte predicts an earlier wrap up of shopping as consumers worry about lingering COVID-19 disruptions, expecting 59% of total shopping to be completed by the end of July. A 2020 Deloitte study reported that 80% of back-to-school shoppers are the most active from late July to early August.

Either way, July is the time to start planning back-to-school promotions, since parents, caregivers, kids, and teachers will be on the lookout for products to make the new school year more exciting and memorable after a year of uncertainty and hybrid learning.

The Stats:

  • 59% of total shopping will be completed by the end of July (Deloitte).
  • WWD predicts later back-to-school shopping, in August (WWD).
  • Around 80% of back-to-school shoppers are the most active from late July to early August (Deloitte, 2020)

Here’s when school starts:

  • United States-from mid-July to mid-September, depending on the state
    • Generally, the Northeast, East North Central, and West Coast start beginning of September or later
    • The Southern, Mountain and Central regions start mid to late August
  • Canada-early September
  • Mexico-end of August

Back to School Discounts and Deals

Offer deals, discounts, incentives, and reward programs. Most importantly, include those discounts in your creative assets! Bidtellect’s [b]+studio consistently sees highest performance for headlines including a discount. Combine promotions (discounts or a special offer) with the shipping deadlines to incentivize your customers to start shopping.

Some ideas:

  • % or $ discount
  • bundle deals
  • free shipping
  • flash sale
  • week-long sales event
  • giveaway
  • contest
  • promo code
  • loyal customer discount
  • loyal customer pre-sale

5 Creative Best Practices

  1. Capture the excitement of returning to school with bright colors, happy students, and excited copy.
  2. Feature your product in relevant settings based on your target audience. For example: with college students on a college campus, or elementary kids on playground, etc. What applies to one age group may not necessarily apply to another.
  3. Students of all ages are more comfortable and reliant on tech than ever before, so feature tech devices in your images. If you’re selling them, even better.
  4. Like we mentioned: PROMOTIONS. Include deals, discounts, incentives, and reward programs in your copy. Bidtellect’s [b]+studio consistently sees highest performance for headlines including a discount. Examples: promo codes, flash sales, bundle deals, free shipping, etc.
  5. Offer to educate or solve problems in your copy. New hygiene protocols? Uncertainty about in-person classes? Choosing the right notebook? Help your students out.

We hope these Back to School 2021 trends and tips help you plan your back to school advertising! Download our onesheet below!

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Charlotte Otremba is Sr. Manager of Communications and Marketing at Bidtellect.

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A+ Back-to-School Tips for Your Native Campaigns

A+ Back-to-School Tips for Your Native Campaigns

Get your pencils sharpened and your campaigns buttoned up – back-to-school shopping season will be here before you know it! Parents have been fretting for months about sending their children back to school, if they are not checking out websites like the School Guide for help with making decisions, they are searching for the right pens, notebooks, stationary, etc. so they can get them in enough time before they are sold out. Did you know shoppers spend more on back-to-school and back-to-college than consumers spend on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day combined?! (NRF) And 72% of consumers will shop online at least once during the back-to-school season which is a very large majority! We have 7 things to keep in mind for back-to-school campaigns – and no, we won’t quiz you on it later (maybe).

1) Know the Biggest Shopping Days

According to RetailMeNot, the 3 biggest back-to-school shopping days are:

  1. Amazon Prime Day (mid-July).
  2. The first weekend of August (August 3rd-5th).
  3. Labor Day Weekend (August 30th-September 2nd)

If you’re not Amazon, that doesn’t mean your campaigns should get the day off! A quarter of back-to-school and college shoppers plan to use Prime Day to shop online deals at other retailers (NRF). For the first weekend of August and Labor Day weekend, plan to offer deals and content like articles with suggestions, inspiration, and trends ready to share (tip: try a listicle!)

2) Offer Deals

Back-to-school buyers are looking for deals. 65% of shoppers said that final price is the biggest determining factor in their back-to-school purchases. One reason why online shopping is so prominent in back-to-school shoppers is thanks to marketing strategies like Macy’s coupon deals which encourage them to go online. 70% of consumers said they look for more savings during this season than they do during other times of the year, including certain holidays where gifting is customary. So don’t get left behind: 80% of retailers will offer discounts. (RetailDive). Now is the time to offer enticing discounts and place them in your headlines and creative copy.

3) Location Matters

Remember that the first day of school differs by region! Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest schools tend to open their doors in early September, while the South, Northwest, and Alaska begin mid to late August. Parts of Arizona and Hawaii start as early as Late July. Plan your sales and target your campaigns to regions accordingly. (Check CNN’s handy start date map

However, before planning any campaign, you might want to consider your company’s financial situation and plan the campaign accordingly. You may even need to hire someone from a company that can provide bookkeeping services brampton or wherever your business is located, but that kind of investment will most likely be worthwhile. Bookkeepers are in charge of handling all of the accounts for small to medium-sized businesses. They hold the responsibility of reporting directly to the company’s owner or financial manager. Hence, it could become much easier to estimate the cost of campaigns and how much you can spend on advertising if you have a bookkeeper who can manage your accounts and finances.

4) So Does Time of Day

Who’s your target? Moms? Kids? College-age sophomores? For example, consider “dead times” like after school pick up and morning drop off might not be a great time to target your content; shoot instead for midday or evening shopping times.

→ For tips on driving awareness and sales, check out How To Drive Awareness and Sales: E-Commerce + Native Best Practices

5) Mobile Matters

More than half browse back-to-school items on their smartphones because they can do it on the go, and 46% prefer mobile shopping because it allows them to multitask (RetailMeNot). Adjust accordingly!

→ For more mobile-related stats and advice, check out our Mobile is the Move blog post and Infographic.

6) Yes, You Have Content

Before you say you don’t have content – you do!

You have a name and you have a website! Even if you do not have a great website, there’s no need to fret – you can hire reputable web designers to create one for you. For back-to-school season, create some articles or videos that inspire shoppers and establish you as a source of expertise.
Some ideas: back-to-school fashion trends, child safety, wellness, and nutrition tips, money-saving tips, time-saving hacks, and advice from parents and experts like pediatricians or teachers!

7) Maximize Your Content

“If content is King, then content distribution is King Kong,” Bidtellect’s CEO Lon Otremba says. Use a Native Advertising strategy to create content previews that match the form and function of the site they’re placed on. Contextual targeting ensures they are placed on relevant sites that readers will want to engage with, and Native Ads intrigue readers even when they have “banner blindness.” Did you know Native ads register an 18% higher lift in purchase intent than standard banner ads and have proven to boost in-store traffic by 21% (Sharethrough)?

→ For more on Native, check out 5 Answers to the Question “Why Native?”

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