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Customer Insights for Back-to-School Season

It’s that time of year again: it’s officially the end of summer. And for online retailers and ecommerce shops, this means it’s back-to-school season. Sales have been cropping up all month long, but now that Labor Day is upon us, promotions will be arriving in full force. And although some promos have been running since Independence Day, according to Rakuten Marketing’s 2016 Digital Insights Report, Labor Day was still the #1 back-to-school purchase day in 2014.

In 2016, parents are expected to spend 33% more on back-to-school products than they did in previous years, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. Consumer electronics, mobile devices, and musical instruments account for some of the increased spend— in fact, nearly 6 in 10 parents will be purchasing new electronics for the upcoming school year. As consumers spend more time shopping online and on mobile, both parents and students are more likely to make purchases at any given time in any given place.

If you’re a shop owner, consider the following ways to incorporate back-to-school season into your marketing campaign, even if school supplies aren’t traditionally in your product wheelhouse. Here are some key customer motivators to keep in mind over the long weekend:


It all boils down to the bottom dollar. When shopping for back-to-school season, pricing is 5x times more important to parents than almost all other factors, like name brand, convenience, or where the item is purchased, according to Rakuten Marketing. Yet less than 50% of advertisers are willing to tweak their promotions to reflect their consumers’ sensitivity toward discounted pricing.

The best way to optimize your shop for back-to-school season is to run a Labor Day flash sale, where select items or services are discounted for the long weekend. If you offer a service with recurring billing, this will pay off in the long run, depending on the average lifecycle of your customer. Or, if you simply can’t afford to cut into your margins, offer free gifts and add-ons, like an extra charger, a tote bag, or a promo code off the next order. A little something extra makes a big difference.


In a competitive ecommerce landscape, putting yourself in your customer’s shoes goes a long way. Convenience is another important factor that determines customer behavior, and this applies especially for parents, who have very little time to spare as it is. The majority of parents now look to one-stop mega-sites like Amazon to fulfill their shopping needs over brick-and-mortar department stores like Walmart. In fact, 60% of parents are now doing their shopping via mobile, according to Rakuten.

To appeal to parents on a time crunch, you’ll want to optimize your site so that it’s as easy to make a purchase as possible. Make sure that....

  • Your shop is mobile-ready
  • Your call-to-action links and product descriptions are crystal clear
  • You have a no-fuss shipping and return policy
  • You accept multiple forms of payment

Remember: anticipating the needs of your customer is half the battle!


Analytics may paint a fuller picture of customer behavior, but online conversions aren’t always as immediate and as easy to measure as a purchase in a physical store.

Many marketers agree that a multi-channel attribution model, where credit for a sale or a conversion is assigned to multiple touch points down the marketing funnel, is the best way to accurately measure sales performance. No one channel is driving a shopper to buy; rather, it’s a combination of several sources that influence consumer behavior. This means that a customer might see an ad for your product on YouTube, then in the form of a banner ad, and then again through a search engine, before finally purchasing. Don’t expect conversions right out of the gate— instead, practice patience, and cover all your bases across social media, paid advertising, and search.

Timing is also important when it comes to inventory. Some families don’t even get to their back-to-school shopping until after school has started, so be sure to keep popular items in stock for the tardy types.


Imagine yourself as a student or a parent. What you would want out of your Labor Day Weekend shopping experience? Like most seasonal promotions, a successful back-to-school campaign always keeps its target audience in mind. So remember to provide value, offer convenience, and practice patience.

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