Back-to-School in 2023: Everything Marketers Need to Know

Is the era of last-minute, big-budget shopping over? The way customers approach the back-to-school season is changing. At Zeta, we conducted a survey to help brands stay ahead of key changes in shoppers’ preferences and behaviors. In this article, you’ll find exclusive insights and effective strategies to set your back-to-school campaigns up for success.

You can also find an overview of the main trends in our infographic .

What Are Back-to-School Customers Buying?

According to exclusive data from Zeta, school supplies are top priority, with 21% of shoppers planning to stock up, followed by clothing (20%) and electronics (17%). Interestingly, safety is also on parents’ and carers’ minds, with 16% investing in safety equipment.

It seems that customers are focused on essential items this year, as only 15% are planning to spend on extracurricular and online resources. With the economy in a state of flux, it’s not surprising that many are tightening their purse strings.

How Much Are Back-to-School Customers Spending?

Back-to-school shoppers are price-conscious this year, with 43% saying their ideal budget is $100-$300. This is slightly less than in 2022, where 46% of shoppers preferred to spend $100-$300.

Overall, 70% plan on spending less than $1000. 14% of shoppers are prepared to spend $400-$700, and 13% can stretch to $800-$1000. The 30% planning to spend over $1000 tend to shop for higher-value items like electronics and clothing. When it comes to school supplies—the most popular product type— “cheap and cheerful” will have to do, with 54% of consumers expecting to spend less than $700.

Online vs. Offline Shopping

As consumers hit the shops post-pandemic, offline shopping dominates the back-to-school season. In fact, our data indicates that 76% of consumers plan to do their back-to-school shopping offline.

Big box stores are the preferred shopping destination for the second year in a row. 29% of consumers are planning to do their back-to-school shopping in big box stores, followed by online retailers (24%) and department stores (19%). Only 16% intend to shop with local retailers.

This shows a continuation of the trend from last year, with 26% of consumers preferring big box stores, and only 23% choosing to shop online. This suggests that post-pandemic, the majority of shoppers are happy to return to brick-and-mortar stores. That said, it isn’t all bad news for online retailers.

Online shoppers have the highest budgets, with 47% expecting to spend over $800 and 23% over $1000. Those looking to shop at big box stores have a much more modest budget, with 75% hoping to spend under $700, and 36% under $300.

Big Box Stores are the destination of choice for school supplies, with 29% of shoppers choosing Big Box Stores for their School Supplies. However, online retailers are most popular among those shopping for Electronics.

Back-To-School Shopping Starts Early This Year

Marketers need to be well-prepared in 2023, with 76% of customers planning to tackle their back-to-school shopping before September. Consumers are starting earlier than ever this year, suggesting they might be concerned about stock shortages or missing out on the best deals.

Our study shows that 30% of shoppers aim to tackle their back-to-school shopping in June, which is a significant increase from 23% last year. 19% plan to do their shopping in July, 27% in August, and 25% in September.

How to Run a Successful Back-to-School Campaign and Drive More Sales

Here are our expert tips and strategies for back-to-school marketing campaigns based on the insights from our survey. If you’re a marketer looking to make the most out of the back-to-school season and drive more sales, this is for you.

1. Offer Incentives and Coupons for Budget Shoppers

Engage the 43% of shoppers in the $100-$300 budget range by providing enticing incentives and exclusive coupons. Discounts, special offers, and bundle deals can attract budget-conscious shoppers and encourage them to choose your brand over competitors.

2. Start Your Campaign Early

With nearly half (49%) of consumers doing their back-to-school shopping in June and July, it’s essential to start your marketing activities early. By reaching consumers at the beginning of their shopping journey, you can establish brand awareness, build anticipation, and position your products or services as top choices for their back-to-school needs.

3. Run a Mini Black Friday

As electronics shoppers have the largest budgets, consider running a mini Black Friday-style promotion to attract these customers. Offering special discounts, limited-time deals, or exclusive bundles can draw attention and drive sales in this high-value category.

4. Tap into Zeta Custom Audiences for Targeting

To reach your ideal shoppers, consider utilizing Zeta’s custom audiences such as Back to School, Parenting, Education Types, and Education Level. These custom audiences enable you to target specific segments effectively and maximize the impact of your marketing campaigns.

Make This Year Your Best Back-To-School Season Yet

As we gear up for the back-to-school season in 2023, understanding shoppers’ preferences and behaviors is vital for marketers. By leveraging the insights shared in this blog post and implementing these strategies, you’ll be well-equipped to run a successful back-to-school campaign.

Running a successful back-to-school campaign demands a deep understanding of different customer segments and their priorities and purchase habits. The Zeta Marketing Platform empowers marketers with the necessary insights and data to do exactly that. Zeta’s data-fueled, AI-driven, omnichannel tech stack and team of specialists ensure that the right message is delivered to the right person in the right environment to have maximum impact.

You can see the power of the platform for yourself by booking a personalized demo. Unlock the power of Zeta and learn how to create exceptional, personalized experiences that will help you attract new customers and make your brand stand out.


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