The span between the end of summer and Black Friday stretches over a dry retail desert...

...but there’s an oasis in the form of back-to-school shopping. The National Retail Federation estimates a $68 billion spending total, split over K-12 and college students, as parents and children visit clothing, office and department stores to pick up necessary supplies.

Overall, the back-to-school shopping trend has risen dramatically, with a 42 percent increase over the past decade. A slight drop-off may alarm retailers and brand marketers who depend on this time period to last them until the busy holiday season. Expanding omnichannel initiatives can give your brand the push it needs to maximize back-to-school spending.

Omnichannel Delivery

Students and parents don’t stick purely to in-store shopping for school supplies, especially if they spend summer on vacation or involved with other activities. It’s more convenient to use mobile and digital channels instead of fighting back-to-school crowds, which makes omnichannel delivery important. Reaching out to children, teens and their parents is an essential part of having your message heard by every audience member who matters.

Retailers are expanding their marketing channels to cater to all potential sales channels. Lenovo connected with other popular brands and celebrities within its target demographic. Lenovo laptops and other tech tools are useful for back-to-school shoppers. As such, streaming video is a major component of Lenovo’s outreach, allowing the company to show how its technology benefits students.

In-store messaging is also important. Beacon technology and mobile retail data collection help you obtain real-time information on audience preferences, your level of sufficient inventory and the ability of targeted advertisements to reach mobile users. You can use this real-time information to work with retailers to determine whether your brand is represented appropriately, if your signage delivers the message you want, and if you’re driving customer attention. Online, offline and mobile advertising that delivers a consistent message to the customer across channels is more likely to find success.

Creative Customer Engagement

Get creative with customer engagement to help spur sales for back-to-school shopping. Some retailers connect with local schools to get information on the required supplies list. Reach out to retailers if your products fall under these lists, and consider offering essential supplies in a convenient bundle. Crayola makes students’ crayon brand selection easy by actively engaging with its audience during the back-to-school season. One social media initiative encouraged parents to share the first-day-at-school pictures they took of their children.

Personalization plays a larger role for this year’s back-to-school season, which influences email and mobile marketing. If your products don’t match up with required supplies, you should figure out how you can create relevancy. For example, Rubbermaid has an “Organization Nation” email newsletter that covers how to use their storage and organizational tools, such as holding essential school supplies, outfitting a dorm room and organizing lockers.

Expand Outside the August and September Window

Parents shop for school supplies year-round, not just in the two months before school starts. Instead of dropping all back-to-school messaging before and after this time, keep it up for a few months into the school season, and right after major breaks. You can obtain more coverage for school supply promotions and take advantage of advertising windows your competitors probably aren’t using. Use social media channels to engage with parents and students throughout the course of the school year, and use ads that focus on a year-round approach to picking up school supplies.

A return to school isn’t the surefire time of year for a large profit anymore, but the opportunity can be maximized through relevant, personalized messaging, expanded promotion time periods and an omnichannel approach.

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