School's In Session

And that's good for your pocketbook.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Sep 02, 2015

The back-to-school season has become one of the biggest shopping and selling seasons of the year. Before it was just a parental duty that entailed buying three-ring binders, filler paper, pencil boxes and an assortment of jeans. Today, the back-to-school season has become a marketing mainstay—which is why you should be stepping up to take a piece of the annual pie.

Give honest patronage to these young shoppers, but don't patronize them; they can spot disingenuous dealers

Even if you're not selling school-themed goods, there are plenty of ways to give your business a seasonal boost during this pre-pre-holiday season. Have a seat and pay attention: School's in session.

No back-to-school blues here

Kids used to bemoan the start of a new school year, cringing each August when the back-to-school ads crept back into summertime TV programming—but that's all changed. Returning to the campus is a big social deal, and if there's one thing kids these days are, it's social. So as you think about how to best message shoppers during this season, understand your school-bound buyers are eager to shop.

What has also changed about this season is that the kids are the ones making most of the buying decisions—and they're doing the actual buying, too. Before parents tugged their little Einsteins down the aisles of department stores.

Today, the kids are shoving mobile devices into Mom and Dad's faces, ready to click the "Add to Cart" button. These are the kids of the Digital Age. They're the breed who know how to find what they want, know how to get on-the-spot advice from online retailers as well as through their social media connections and even have virtual accounts to make their own purchases.

So speak to them as the savvy shoppers they are. Sell to them like you'd sell to any adult with a message that's written for them, about them and in a way that lets them know that they're valued by your business.

With that as your campaign credo, be sure to be present where they like to congregate. Yes, an online retail presence is top priority, but that should also include a social presence, too.

Make your buying process so simple that even a parent could do it

Whether you'll use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or even Instagram and Snapchat, be online in real time to answer their questions and offer additional information as they make their buying choices.

Above all, give honest patronage to these young shoppers, but don't patronize them; they can spot disingenuous dealers, and they'll give you a fast thumbs down if you talk down to them (and they'll let all their friends know about it, too).

Give the folks assurance

Parents, dutifully looking after their youngsters, often want to know that where they're shopping and that what they're buying is safe, sensible, and age-suitable.

While you're crafting your campaign messages to attract the youngsters, (try to speak their language, but don't outright mimic them; that's a little creepy). Be sure to drop in a few words to let parents know you're just as concerned for the kids' well-being. Keep your business site clean with a clear message and easy navigation before, during and after a transaction.

In fact, make your buying process so simple that even a parent could do it. Yeah, it really is like that these days.

The pencil-box basics

So, in a nutshell (or in a pencil-box, if you'll indulge the analogy), here's what your back-to-school campaign should offer:

Just about anything can be appropriate for returning students. School-type supplies and clothing are natural offerings

  • A clean product catalog with clear pictures and straightforward descriptions
  • An easy-to-find "Buy It" button and few-as-possible clicks to make a purchase
  • Clear details of shipping methods, delivery times and costs
  • Secure online ordering method that accepts major credit card accounts and other online payment alternatives (PayPal, ApplePay, etc.)
  • Secure and sensible data collection methods with assurance of privacy controls
  • Automated order confirmations—email is still the best and easiest

Sure, that seems like all the features you'd be sure to offer when selling to big people, and why not. Again, today's youth shopper is wise to the ways of online purchases. Don't forget that.

So what will you sell to this back-to-school crowd?

Perhaps this was the biggest question as you sat back, reading, tempted to raise your hand in inquiry. The simple answer is that you can sell nearly anything within a well-constructed back-to-school campaign.

As mentioned, this has become a bona fide "shopping season," where just about anything can be appropriate for returning students. School-type supplies and clothing are natural offerings, but so are personal electronics, books, music and movies, foodstuff accessories, and so on.

If you can angle your products so they provide some sort of value, relief or relaxation to the school-bound, you'll be able to tap into this market.

The back-to-school season is bigger than ever and, as hinted at earlier, it also unofficially opens a string of months that offers a succession of marketing opportunities. Best of success to you all. Class dismissed.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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