August 16, 2018

10 Back-to-School Season Tips to Help Retailers Meet and Surpass Their Sales Goals


Despite the constant rise in popularity of online shopping across the globe, there are still important sales events during which most people prefer to shop at a physical store. One of them happens to be back-to-school shopping.

According to Deloitte’s annual Back-to-College survey, both parents and students claimed that they plan to do 48 percent of their shopping in brick-and-mortar stores this year, while the other 52 percent said that they would be shopping about 50/50 online and in physical retail stores.

This means that there’s a lot of money to be made this season, even if your business doesn’t currently have an online store. How much? The aforementioned study sites that these parents of collegians are expected to spend close to $25.5 billion in the back-to-school season, and about 54 percent of their budgets will be spent at physical retailers; that’s roughly $13.8 billion and that’s just college kids!

These statistics clearly show that there is serious money to be made by physical retail stores that are willing to put in the time and effort that is required to successfully market their businesses as must-go shopping stops for parents and students during the back-to-school season.

And don’t worry if you’ve gotten a late start, a National Retail Federation (NRF) study reports that the number of procrastinators when it comes to getting their back-to-school shopping done is growing every year.

So if you’re looking for ways to maximize your profits and ring up sales that are going to meet and exceed your sales goals this back-to-school reason, here are 10 tips that will help you get there if implemented earnestly and boldly.

Dedicate a Section of Your Store to Back-to-School Promotions

If a customer enters your store and needs to ask one of your employees where the back-to-school items and special are located, then you’ve already lost.

“Easy to find” is not going to cut it either, what you want is “can’t miss.” Take all of your back-to-school promotional items, bundles and whatever else you have and create a special section of your store that is dedicated solely to these items. Make sure that this section is easily visible and that your customers who are looking for back-to-school items know exactly where to go to find them as soon as they walk through your doors.

Make sure that these areas of your store are bright, colorful and that the displays are eye-popping and attention-grabbing.

During back-to-school promotion events, all your other items, even your most popular ones, should take a backseat if they are not related to your back-to-school blowout sales. It’s also imperative to keep this section of your store fully stocked at all times because poor inventory management is something that can absolutely top your back-to-school promotion dead in its tracks.

Another good idea is to dedicate the “impulse buying” areas of your retail store (usually close to the register) to back-to-school products as well and make sure that it’s stocked with inexpensive, related add-on items.

Don’t Forget About the Students

When planning and implementing their back-to-school marketing programs, retailers often forget that students spend a lot of money during this season, not just parents. While parents are obviously one of the most important demographics to put into focus, it’s very important to not forget the students either.

According to a ShopperTrak infographic that cites an NRF study, 9.7 percent of parents admit that their children influence 100 percent of their back-to-school purchases. That’s why your marketing needs to be appealing to the younger generations because even if it’s not their money, they certainly have a voice when it comes to what their parents are purchasing for them.

Don’t Forget About Social Media Either

Now that the younger generations are on your radar, it’s time to figure out how to get their attention and get them into your store. The most obvious way is to engage them through social media.

A study recently conducted by Retail Dive shows that more than 80 percent of Gen Z and 74 percent of Millennials are heavily influenced by social media when it comes to shopping.

Social media should already by a very integral part of your marketing efforts and should receive extra attention when back-to-school season comes around. All your accounts should be running on all cylinders. Mention your back-to-school promotions regularly and be sure to feature all of your products that that could be attractive to students looking to shop for school. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest should be your most busy social platforms because they are the most visual ones.

Another important aspect of social media when it comes to running promotions is communication. Not only should you be presenting your products well, you should also be taking the time to answer any and all inquiries you may be getting from potential customers about your products and promotions online.

Implement an Email Marketing Plan

Hopefully, you’ve been doing a good job of obtaining your customers’ emails throughout the year. Now it’s time to put them to good use with an expertly designed and interesting newsletter about your back-to-school promotions and deals in order to get them to visit.

No matter what type of products you sell, there is always something in your store that can be pitched as a must-need item for students returning to school. Identify the products that you believe will connect best with your customer base and shoot them an email highlighting them.

An expertly crafted newsletter needs to not only be well-designed and attractive, it needs to be highly informative and easy to read as well. If you have an e-commerce store or a website where your products are prominently featured, you can send them to either. However, if you’d rather just get the word out without trying to send them to a particular website, make sure that all of the vital information regarding your store and promotions is present in the newsletter.

Studies have shown that when it comes to getting information that relates to their children, parents still prefer email over social media. Take this opportunity to reengage your parental customer base and let them know that your store should be at the top of their list of places to visit when embarking on their back-to-school shopping trips.

Provide Convenience to Attract Busy Customers

The back-to-school season is one of the busiest times of the year not just for you, but for your customers as well. Many families are settling in after vacations and still trying to ease into their regular schedules. Students are incredibly busy preparing to go back to school, especially college students you might even be dealing with having to move into new homes.

It should be your responsibility as a retailer who respects their time and understands their struggles to try and accommodate your customers as much as possible by making their shopping experience at your store as stress-free as possible.

According to this Nielsen study, most consumers tend to mix their online and physical shopping experiences still. That’s why it’s important to give customers options when it comes to both the way in which they shop and the way in which they receive their products.

Online shopping isn’t just about ordering something and getting it sent to your address. Studies have shown that many prefer to pick up their items at physical stores and that enabling customers to see your products online can actually increase foot traffic as well.

But the point is to give your customers options. Offer free shipping for larger orders, regular shipping for smaller ones and also make it easy for them to pick up their goods at a physical location if they wish to do so.

According to the NRF, nine out of 10 back-to-school shoppers will take advantage of free shipping offers and about 50 percent of survey respondents claimed that they would use in-store pickup services.

According to a survey conducted by Nielsen and USPS, 45 percent of customers will end up buying more items when coming in to a store to pick up something that they have already ordered.

The main point is that you should be ready to make it easy on your customers and give them the options they want when it comes to getting their products in order to add convenience to the buying process and keep them coming back, especially during the busiest parts of the year.

Make Sure You Know Your Demographic

In order to know what your retail customers truly want, you need to get a detailed picture of your demographic and a strong grasp of the people that you are targeting and what inspires them to spend their money. This is an ongoing process that should include many steps.

You should be using customer surveys to define your demographic and its needs. You should be keeping good records of your sales and analyzing your back-to-school reports from last year to see which products sold best and where you could stand to improve.

It’s also important to take a look at the schools in your community and see what they are asking children and parents to purchase. For example, if a school in your area requires uniforms and you’re a retailer that sells clothes, make sure that you are selling clothes that are in accordance with the school’s uniform guidelines.

The more information you have about your customer base and their needs, the easier it will be to target them and mold your marketing efforts towards what they need and want to buy.

Try Out New and Exciting Promotions

One of the best things about the back-to-school retail season is that you already know that it’s going to be a busy time of the year with an increased number of customers and sales. That’s what makes it the perfect time of the year to try some of the marketing tactics and promotions that you might have been putting off for a while.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your sales and promotions in order to stand out from the competition and turbocharge your marketing efforts.

Even if some of your more ambitious promotional ideas don’t end up panning out, you can still rely on your tried and tested promotions to see the sales numbers you would expect to see during the back-to-school season. That’s what makes this a perfect time to try out something new, because there’s little to no risk involved.

Make Sure You’re Upselling

Up-selling is always a great technique to implement if you want your retail sales to soar, but back-to-school is a time during which you should be even more aggressive about it, simply because there are tons of opportunities to make great bundle sales and increase your profits when up-selling effectively.

Good up-selling is all about good product placement. Make sure that the products that can naturally go together are located close to each other in the store. It’s also important to educate your staff and let them know which items they should focus on upselling when trying to put together product combos for your customers.

Another good upselling technique is seeing what a customer is interested in buying and then getting them to commit to buying a more expensive product of the same type. For example, if they are looking to buy crayons and grab a cheaper set, let them know that the slightly more expensive crayon set has brighter colors and last longer and is, therefore, worth the slightly higher price.

Also, be sure to put your items that are easily bundled close to the register and tell your staff members who are working at check out to recommend these items to customers based on what they already have in their shopping bags.

Create Loyalty Programs to Retain Customers

Back-to-school season is also the perfect time to implement loyalty programs to retain the customers that make purchases at your store this season and make sure that they’ll come again next year.

Experiment with different types of loyalty programs to see which work best when it comes to keeping your customer base and getting them to return to your retail store regularly.

Try it all – free gifts, monthly discounts, exclusive offers, point-earning programs, anything you think your customer base would react to positively can be used when putting together quality loyalty programs.

Team Up With Other Local Businesses

Bundling items can work wonders for your sales in-store, but it’s also a good idea to look at other local businesses in your community and reach out to them during the back-to-school season to offer mutual customers complimentary products and services.

Make a list of retailers in your community that offer products or services that go well with yours and try to work out some sort of partnership that will be of mutual benefit to both stores.

Creating local partnerships with other retailers in your area is a great way to get the word out about your store to a whole new customer pool and increase your reach within the community.

Partnerships help you to tap into different consumer groups that might not be familiar with your store, which will inevitably lead to new business or at least added interest in your store and new opportunities to convert the customers of other local businesses into loyal customers of your own.