Back-to-school (BTS) and back-to-college (BTC) shopping is the second biggest retail event for merchants, behind winter holidays. Back-to-school shopping is no longer the one-day spree of stocking up.
Today’s consumers are specific about what they want, and they will take the time to find it.
Retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on this attitude shift. If you don’t capitalize on that opportunity–to get the most out of the back-to-school market–you’re missing out.
It’s not even summer yet, but merchants should begin their preparation for 2015 back to school shopping now. The school shopping season can start as early as June, and it peaks in August. Prepare early to give yourself a better chance to compete successfully.
We’ve created below a list of things that you should be thinking about this next month or two. They’ll help you prepare for the 2015 back-to-school shopping season.
Why You Should Prepare Now for the 2015 Back-to-school Shopping Season
Planning ahead of back-to-school shopping peaks is key to your success. Retail giants like Target, have likely started preparations weeks ago–maybe even months ago. But, they have the resources to dedicate entire teams just to back-to-school.
For you, it’s realistic to start your preparations now. You don’t want to be scrambling at the beginning of August to put your plans together. You’ll be too late and miss out on sales. By mid-August, most people have already completed half of their shopping (at least that was true in 2014).
Some of the preparations we’ll recommend also take time. For example, it takes weeks for keyword targeting, a part your SEO strategy, to produce results. You also might need some upgrades in your technology to provide a better customer experience. Technology implementation takes time.
If you want to be successful, you should start now to get a leg-up on your competition.
The following is our merchants to-do list for 2015 back-to-school shopping season.
- Plan and Execute SEO Strategy for BTS Keywords
- Make Your Site Mobile Friendly for BTS Shoppers
- Improve Your Product Information for BTS Products
- Brainstorm Unique BTS Marketing Campaigns
How to Prepare for 2015 Back-to-school Shopping Season
Plan and Execute SEO Strategy
Overall, back-to-school searches grew 45% between 2013 and 2014. That’s higher than ever! And, many of those shoppers are leveraging search engines like Google to find the BTS items they need.
If your back-to-school products and your promotions to rank high in search engine results, shoppers can more easily discover what you’re offering. To do this, you’ll need to plan your SEO strategy ahead of when shoppers are searching for terms.
In 2014, back-to-school searches started as early as May and peaked in August. PM Digital’s annual “Back to School Trend Report” states that with SEO, 3 to 4 weeks additional lead time is recommended for any content to gain rankings that target back to school audiences. The report also cited that the top search terms were “back to school,” “school supplies,” “school shopping,” and “back to school sales.”
For smaller or mid-sized retailers, with less brand equity, it will be challenging to rank toward the top of such competitive keywords. Try targeting “long tail” keywords that are more niche and specific to your business.
For example, instead of “school supplies”, maybe target “premium school supplies Columbus, OH”. The search volume will be lower for that keyword, but it will be easier to rank for and the audience is extremely targeted.
Think about you’re offering and how potential shoppers will search for them. You’ll want to create and target your messaging to include these types of keywords. You’ll want to start your plan soon to reach those early searchers.
New to SEO, or just want a refresher? Here’s a good beginner SEO guide that will help you learn the basics.
Make Your Site Mobile Friendly
It’s important to know where your customers are researching about and buying their back-to-school supplies. Is it online or in-store?
Data verifies that the internet is being used more often for both back-to-school product searches and purchases. According to Google data, in August 2014, 40% of back-to-school searches were done on mobile. That’s a 25% increase from last year.
Merchants should have a responsive site that adheres to this preference of back-to-school shoppers. A responsive site provides an optimal viewing experience for viewers across all devices, from desktop to mobile devices.
Your shoppers will be able to search your back-to-schools deals products on their mobile devices with minimal panning, re-sizing, and scrolling. They’ll stay on your site longer without getting frustrated. The easier you make searching for them, the more likely they’ll be to find what they want and buy it.
Another reason to optimize your site for mobile is because of the Google algorithm change dubbed Mobilegeddon. This change issued by Google on April 21st impacts all website owners. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it can now hurt your ability to rank high for the search engine. Lower rankings make it harder for customers to find you.
Giving back-to-school shoppers the option to search and buy on mobile is important to your selling success. Shoppers will use their mobile devices to search for back-to-school supplies. Become mobile friendly to make it easy for them to find and buy from you.
Improve Your Product Listings
With the increase in online shopping during this time, it’s important to provide customers with the best customer experience you can on your site or marketplaces. There’s a lot that goes into creating an unforgettable customer experience. A lot of that experience has to do with your product information.
Better product information means increased product findability through search engines, better site navigation, and richer product descriptions. All things that help convert more back-to-school shoppers into buyers.
Your product listings should be accurate, complete, and rich with detailed information. Shoppers can then find the items they need on their back-to-school list more quickly. They’ll also be confident that they’re buying exactly what they need.
However, managing your product information is usually a pain point for merchants. It can be difficult to update and optimize your data just for back-to-school supplies or sales. It might seem impossible for you to get it done in time for this season.
A Product Information Management (PIM) solution can help you get this task done in time. You’ll be able to make bulk updates to your information and build collections specifically made-up of back-to-school items, all from your master catalog of products.
Don’t settle for sub-par product information. It won’t help you compete and be successful this back-to-school season.
Brainstorm Unique Marketing Campaigns
The best part of the back-to-school shopping season is having the chance to have fun with it. Think of creative ways to engage your shoppers. To kick-off your brainstorming session, here are some big ideas from other retailers last year:
- Macy’s Back-to-school Guide
- Tom’s Back-to-school Pinterest campaign
- IKEA partners with YouTube Star for dorm room tour & makeover videos
These types of campaigns help inspire participation from customers. It boosts your brand image. Get your team together and see what your team can come up with!
What to Do Next
Back-to-school and back-to-college is the second biggest retail event of the year. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on. Merchants should start preparing now. Don’t be left scrambling at the beginning of August.
Use this to-do list to help you prepare for this year’s season. Whether you’re ready or not, back-to-school searches are going to start in June and peak in August. Be ready to compete and be successful this season!
Check out our other articles about 2015 back-to-school findings:
- 2015 Back-to-School Spending Projections – you’ll learn about the results from the National Retail Federation’s annual 2015 Back-to-School Spending Survey.
- 10 Reasons Why Mobile Will Make or Break Your Back-to-School Success [Infographic] – see why mobile is so important to back-to-school shopping