5 Back to School Marketing Ideas for Retailers

Back to school is one of the busiest times of year for parents, students, teachers, and—of course—retailers. In fact, the back-to-school shopping season is one of the busiest times of year for everyone in the retail industry. From book bags and pens, to new shoes and new clothes, it’s a time of year when consumers aren’t shy about spending money. With that in mind, here are five back to school marketing ideas to help retailers maximize their success this season.

Back to school marketing idea #1? — Partner with local businesses

Consumers report feeling compelled and motivated to “shop small” and save local businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. 

To capitalize on this year’s preference for local shopping, marketers should consider setting aside some back-to-school budget for partnerships with smaller, independent brick-and-mortar merchants. Promote these partnerships using thoughtful email and social campaigns to cultivate awareness and promote key back-to-school products.

Back to school marketing idea #2? — Lean on “hero” products

Bundle popular products from different categories to help back-to-school shoppers meet multiple needs at once. Identify the “hero” products of the season (trendy, quick-selling items) and package them with less popular products to help move stale items off shelves. Use geofencing with social media to increase consumer interest in product bundles at specific brick-and-mortar locations.  

Back to school marketing idea #3? — Promote in-person shopping

Consumers are tired of pointing and clicking to do their shopping. Many are excited to return to stores and the in-person buying experience—they want to become tactile shoppers again.

More than 50% of consumers plan on doing some form of their back to school shopping in person, so don’t disappoint them. Even those looking to still buy online will be increasingly interested in in-person fulfillment like curbside or in-store pickup. 

When it comes to last-mile fulfillment, consumers value immediate, transparent communication above all else. With that in mind, consider making SMS notifications an integral part of the fulfillment experience this year. 

Back to school marketing idea #4? — Use sales early and often

Even with record-breaking household savings, many back-to-school shoppers will remain price conscious. In fact, 2 out of 3 consumers will plan their back-to-school shopping around a major sale

  • 35% of consumers will only be able to spend less than $100 on back-to-school

  • 23% of consumers will only be able to spend between $100 and $500 on back-to-school

Retailers should plan events and promotions centered on price sensitivities to encourage consumers to do as much buying as possible in their stores. Coupons, discounts, and other incentives for students, parents, and teachers are a MUST this year.  Lean into loyalty data to understand which products are most sought after, and implement dedicated social hashtags promoting special offers on those items. 

Back to school marketing idea #5? — Talk to kids, not just parents.

Don’t forget that back-to-school marketing isn’t just about connecting with parents. Students play a pivotal role in the buying process, from influencing their parents’ purchase decisions to spending their own money, students can’t be ignored. Analyze signals (behavioral, content, geographic, etc.) related to Generation Z and Generation Alpha across channels, and use any insights gleaned to develop more effective marketing campaigns that zero-in on clear interests. 

Roughly 13% of this year’s back-to-school buying will be done by the students themselves.  

  • Teens will spend approximately $37 of their own money this year

  • Pre-teens will spend approximately $26 of their own money 

Looking for more back to school marketing insights?

If you’re interested in getting even more granular with your back to school marketing—talk to us. From our Zeta Data Trends to our back to school marketing guide, Zeta has everything retail marketers need to stay ahead of the game.  


Thanks for your interest in Zeta. To see a demo please complete the form.

Thank you!

Your request has been sent. We will be in touch with you shortly.