Eighty-percent of parents say that at least 70% of their back-to-school purchases will happen in-store this year, and 89% say they’ll decide where to make those purchases based on access to mobile deals and coupons. Online marketing is influencing offline purchasing like never before, with mobile and location-based technology enabling brands and retailers to target parents at the precise moments they’re ready to convert.
With back-to-school and back-to-college spending forecasted to reach $75.8 billion this year, up from $68 billion just last year, brands and retailers are getting more strategic — and creative — with their localized marketing campaigns. Here are six examples of recent campaigns aimed directly at back-to-school shoppers.
1. Offering localized classroom supply lists. When it comes to purchasing basic classroom supplies, like binders, pencils, and index cards, parents usually have to choose between shopping early off of generic lists or waiting until the last minute, after their kids have brought home printed supply lists from their teachers. This year, Target partnered with TeacherLists.com to give shoppers early access to supply lists compiled by their own local teachers. Shoppers click onto Target’s School List Assist site, enter their zip codes, and then select their schools and classrooms. They can then choose between in-store pickup or delivery, add items from the list to their carts, and then checkout online. Using location technology, Target is further personalizing the shopping experience and making it easier for parents to find everything they need in one shopping experience.
2. Running contests on Snapchat. Retail brands that want to seem hip and relevant are skipping over Facebook and Twitter this season, and instead focusing on Snapchat as a marketing tool. Office Depot ran “brain-teaser contests” and gave its followers on Snapchat a chance to win prizes for participating. Participants were encouraged to follow the brand’s official Snapchat account and interact with the organic Stories that Office Depot was posting by taking screenshots and drawing on the quiz questions within the app. The campaign was designed with the goal of driving engagement and awareness among the student demographic, which is a different demographic than competing retailers like Target—which has been aiming its campaigns at parents—have been courting on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
3. Promoting product-centric scavenger hunts. Nothing is more local than a neighborhood scavenger hunt. This summer, Crayola used Facebook to promote a scavenger hunt, with the full details of how to participate posted on its own website. Children and their parents were encouraged to create their own scavenger hunts—either for classmates or other kids in the neighborhood—using Crayola supplies, like markers and crayons. Crayola’s fans and followers on social media shared the idea on their own pages, spreading the concept like wildfire and giving Crayola’s scavenger hunts the flavor of authenticity.
4. Enhanced in-store pickup options. College students are often tasked with hauling the dorm supplies and back-to-school wardrobes they bought on summer break back to campus when school begins. Kohl’s is using location technology to make it easier for shoppers to pickup the products they bought online at the store location closest to their university campus. The strategy, which is just one part of Kohl’s expansive back-to-school campaign, dubbed The School Year Starts Here, aims to streamline the move-in process for college students transitioning into campus housing. Kohl’s has also expanded its mobile app with the option to store gift cards and coupons, and a store mode for customized in-store shopping experiences.
5. Partnering with local influencers. Moms do the majority of back-to-school shopping, and the people influencing this group of women tend to be the so-called “mommy bloggers.” Ziploc worked with Collective Bias to put back-to-school content on popular mom blogs. In addition to writing about how they use Ziploc bags to pack school lunches and decorate cupcakes for back-to-school parties, bloggers like Cathy Mini of Our Mini Family included information about where local readers could go to find Ziploc’s products in their own stores. This type of campaign targets the individual customers most likely to purchase Ziploc products, and it also helps drive shoppers into the local businesses where Ziploc products are sold.
6. Using Pokémon as a lure for back-to-school events. Local businesses are using Pokémon Go as a way to get people to their back-to-school and end-of-summer events. Southern Lanes, a family entertainment center in Bowling Green, Kentucky, used Facebook to promote a Back to School Bash earlier this month, and encouraged people to attend for the chance to “win prizes, capture Pokémon, and share information with other Pokémon Trainers.” Almost any business can use Pokémon as an incentive to get people to their back-to-school parties, and once people arrive, the business can divert attention back towards its products or services with limited-time deals and special promotions available only to attendees.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.