eCommerce Tips & Trends

Back-to-School 2020: eCommerce Trends and Marketing Strategies You Need to Know

With COVID-19, Back-to-school 2020 will be unlike other years. Learn the impacts on eCommerce, and how to implement strategies for a successful season.
Back-to-School 2020: eCommerce Trends and Marketing Strategies You Need to Know

By Jules


August 6, 2020

In typical years, the back-to-school shopping season marks the start of a lucrative half of the year for retailers and eCommerce merchants. This year, with the massive disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there's remains considerable uncertainty in the market, which makes it even more critical for eCommerce merchants to implement effective marketing strategies to draw in back-to-school shoppers.  

This year, Deloitte projects back to school spending will hit $28.1 billion, or $529 per student, which is relatively flat from 2019. The National Retail Federation (NRF) figure is more optimistic with an estimated $33.9 billion back to school spending for parents with children in elementary school through high school.

Given the upward trend in online shopping in 2020, there likely be more opportunities for savvy eCommerce merchants, however the type of back-to-school supplies parents are seeking out could differ from normal years since more children will be at home for their schooling.

In this article, we'll cover how COVID-19 will impact back to school shopping, and provide some useful back-to-school marketing strategies and trends  eCommerce stores can implement. Lastly, we'll share how Easyship can help you optimize your back-to-school 2020 campaigns with our tools.

Back-to-school supplies
Photo by Element5 Digital 

How Covid-19 Will Impact Back-to-School Shopping

Knowing how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact back-to-school shopping will help you pivot your back-to-school marketing campaigns to align with the mood of the shopping public and the demand for certain products in the marketplace.  

“You've got to be able to change the content, change the messaging, and the tone of your back to school marketing; otherwise, you'll seem to be either irrelevant or insensitive,” OZ Etzioni, CEO of the personalization platform Clinch to Marketdive.

Let's take a look at a few of the back-to-school 2020 trends that have emerged because of the  COVID-19 impact on school re-openings.

An Extended Back to School Season

Schools and colleges around the country are taking different approaches to re-opening, from some choosing to hold in-person classes while others have made the decision to opt for remote learning. Because of this patchwork, and uncertainty, the back-to-school shopping season has been thrown in flux and will likely extend into the early fall, greater a longer season  

Change in Supplies

With more students learning from home, the type of supplies parents need will change, with a likely higher demand for electronics such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, headphones, and other technology products. Expect supplies such as backpacks, notebooks, clothes, lunch boxes, and other traditional back to school products top shopping lists in jurisdictions where schools will fully re-open.

More Back-to-School Spending will Move Online

Since many brick and mortar stores still remain closed across the country, there will likely to be a continued increase in online shopping. According to CNBC, parents plan to spend 37% of their overall back-to school-budget online this year –up from 29% in 2019.

Shipping and Delivery

This year’s back-to-school shopping will come with new shipping and delivery expectations. Parents and students have embraced different measures put by the government to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and will want to keep social distancing and remain as contactless as possible.

That means you need to prepare your eCommerce store to accommodate parents’ shipping and delivery expectations by including home delivery, shop online-pickup in-store, curbside pickups, and other contactless delivery options in your back-to-college marketing strategies.

Financial Constraints

The economic impacts from the pandemic continue to immense financial stress on many households, leading to changes in back to school shopping habits. With millions are out of work in the U.S. and other parts of the world, 30% percent of the people surveyed by Deloitte cited ‘high financial concern’ going into the back-to-school season.

Merchants will need to remain flexible and agile with their back-to-school marketing and experiment with by offering promo codes, discounts, freebies, and free shipping.

Back-to-school sign
Photo by Deleece Cook 

5 Back to School Marketing Strategies For eCommerce Stores

While this back-to-school shopping season presents new challenges for merchants, there are marketing strategies that can be adopted to take advantage of the increase in online shopping. Sometimes it's best to go with what you know works by tweaking and optimizing, but you also need to leave room for agility and experimentation.  

Let's take a look at five of the back-to-school marketing strategies that will help you convert customers.

1.If you're not already advertising, start now!

62% of parents who start their back to school shopping earlier tend to spend $100 more than those that shop later. They also tend to be mobile-savvy and more deal-seeking shoppers looking for great back-to-college shopping deals right away.

Many merchants have taken a wait-and-see approach due to a patchwork of school reopening amid COVID-19, carefully watching their marketing budgets, but the time for waiting is definitely over. If you haven't started marketing and advertising yet, the time is now.

2. Optimize your store for mobile

If you haven't done this yet, now is the perfect time, especially given the holiday shopping season is right around the corner as well.

According to Shopify, sellers are realizing the highest sales and conversions from mobile devices, as more and more people are using their smartphones to shop online during the pandemic. It makes no sense to run successful back-to-school marketing campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, only to send your buyers to a site that is not mobile-friendly.

Before launching your back-to-school campaigns, make sure that your site is optimized to offer hassle-free mobile experience from browsing to checkout.

You can also offer tools that make shopping easier for kids such as allowing them the ability to drag and drop back-to-school essentials into virtual baskets.

3. Know the back-to-school trends 2020

You need to know and stock the most buzzed-out products for the back to school season so that you remain relevant to your audience. The most popular categories for back to school shopping include books and other stationery, electronic gadgets,  and clothing.

Furniture/home décor items are the top categories for college students, who are projected to spend an average of $1,345 on their back-to-college shopping. You should target these items with your back-to-college marketing for college students.

Targeting your back to school marketing campaigns to the right demographics with these product categories will bring you a decent ROI.

4. Run promotions and contests on social media

Due to financial constraints caused by COVID-19, shoppers will be more budget-conscious this year. You need to factor this in your back-to-school marketing strategy and appeal to your buyers with special promotions such as gift-with-purchases offers, free shipping, BOGO deals, or host a contest.

With people spending more time on social media, now is the time to start running those Instagram and Facebook ads to present your special offers and promotions to your potential buyers.

Incorporating social media contests into your back-to-school campaigns is also a great way to attract the attention of your buyers. You can post items on social media with hashtags and offer your buyers a 20% off their total purchase if they share your back to school hashtags with family and friends.

5. Create a back-to-school landing page

Creating a landing page is a great back-to-school marketing strategy to make it easy for your buyers to shop for their back to school essentials. You can then direct them to this page through back to school campaigns on social media, google ads, or email lists -where they can browse items based on categories. You can also organize your landing page by different demographics such as grade, gender, best seller or price point.

How Easyship Helps eCommerce Merchants

This will be a challenging back-to-school shopping season, but with the right planning and tools eCommerce merchants can have a successful season. Easyship can help in several ways.

  • Shipping Rates Calculator Tool: This is the fastest way to to find quotes on back-to-school supplies such as books, clothing and electronics. Simply enter the destination and weight for an accurate estimate from couriers.
  • Product Listings: Easily upload your back-to-school product catalog or sync with your store on Shopify, BigCommerce or other platforms with our product listing feature in your Easyship dashboard.
  • Shipping Policy Generator: The Covid-19 pandemic has forced merchants to adjust their policies. Our quick and easy shipping polidy generators makes it easy for you to create a customized policy to provide clarity to your customers during the back-to-school shopping season.
  • Branded tracking and emails: Though the Easyship dashboard, we help you maintain order fulfillment visibility with your customers from checkout to delivery through automated messages, branded tracking emails, and dedicated tracking pages

Now is the time to get started with Easyship to supercharge your shipping. Sign up for a free account now!

Looking for tips on how to ship those back-to-school items? Check out the following: