How to fuel your ‘Back to School’ marketing campaigns – 5 top trends to watch

5 top trends to watch

September has dawned, there is a slight chill to the air and the leaves are starting to turn. It can only mean one thing: back-to-school.

Our social feeds are awash with pictures of uniformed-kids with shiny new shoes and backpacks stuffed with supplies heading off for that much anticipated first day back.

For parents, it not only spells a return to the routine of the school-run but the end of several weeks of researching and shopping for the essentials from uniform and shoes, to lunch bags and stationery. For marketers, what are the top trends to watch out for?

1. Major shopping season event

Not including the seasonal behemoths that are Black Friday and Christmas, the back-to-school period is now the largest seasonal shopping event ahead of Easter and Mother's Day.

Spanning late July through to the beginning of September as the new term begins, back-to-school is now worth more than £1bn, up 27% year-on-year according to Mintel research from April 2019 examining seasonal shopping.

2. Early birds to last-minute procrastinators

Advertising promoting back-to-school, particularly new uniform, often launch before the previous school year has even ended. This taps into the group of parents who like to get their back-to-school shopping finished a month before the new term begins.

According to a study on back-to-school trends carried out in 2018 by YouGov and payment solutions company Ingenico, late July and early August see a spike in sales as the early birds swoop in to benefit from early season discounts and to avoid stock availability issues. Purchasing of school items then tends to tail off in mid-August as many shoppers head off on holiday.

There is another rush of sales as the new term approaches, according to the YouGov/Ingenico research. While these parents might have left it to the last minute, but their research starts much early. Many use social media for comparing prices, discounts and styles through-out summer.

According to an Accenture online study commissioned by Facebook IQ, nearly a third of adults discover clothing through social media. Facebook and Instagram are an increasingly essential tool for researching back-to-school products while on-the-go, such as days out or on holidays.

Physical stores still play a crucial role in back-to-school with children needing to have their feet measured and try items on, but online also plays a vital role. According to the Mintel research, 40% of parents shopping online in the run-up to the new school year, according to the Mintel research.

Online is also a vital tool as some parents face last-minute shopping emergencies, such as new shoes to replace a pair that no longer fits. Shoppers will be looking to retailers and brands offering convenient delivery options, such as same-day click and collect or free next day delivery, to resolve issues quickly.

What does it mean for marketers?

Parents use social media to discover back-to-school products while out and about. Dynamic advertising with broad audience targeting can be used to reach shoppers that have expressed an interest in your products, or products similar to yours.

3. Fashionable supplies

While is no doubt that it is parents that are making the purchases; children are still influential in back-to-school purchasing decisions.

According to the Mintel seasonal shopping report, one area where children particular influence is school accessories and stationery, where the trends have shifted towards more fashionable, branded items. This trend also extended to higher ticket items such as bags and coats.

Students look to social media for inspiration and to discover new products they might need for the school year, while parents are looking for discounts and offers. Valuable content throughout the summer, such as ideas for days out or activities and back-to-school checklists appeal to both groups and will help to raise awareness of both brands and products.

What does it mean for marketers?

Relevant and timely brand content can be effective on Facebook and Instagram, where both younger and older groups engage.

Entertaining video content on social media can appeal to children and teenagers, and their parents and help to build brand awareness.

Branded content is a marketing feature that advertisers could use to partner with trusted voices on Facebook platforms to help parents make the best back-to-school buys!

4. Cost and sustainability matter

Price competition is intense in back-to-school, particularly around uniform, and multi-buy offers and multipacks are the norms.

The major supermarkets have long led the way in back-to-school when it comes to uniforms and shoes. However, they are also benefitting from the new trend for branded and fashionable school supplies, as do department stores, but both are coming under pressure from the discounters.

The spiralling cost of uniform, shoes and accessories in recent years is creating a new market for second-hand clothing. These concerns have created an explosion of community groups on sites, such as Facebook, where parents can connect and buy or exchange uniform.

It sits alongside growing environmental worries about the UK culture of having to continually buy a new uniform, with a renewed focus on repairing and reusing.

What does it mean for marketers?

Don't over look environmental concerns in a market where price-driven campaigns rule. Behind-the-scenes content on where products are made or sourced or how they can be recycled and reused will tap into these concerns.

5. September Reset

Back-to-school is undoubtedly about children and parents, but recent years have seen a trend for a September Reset.

For many, the autumn is as much about new beginnings as January, and there is a general sense of people set new goals. For parents, it is about getting life back to normal and, for people without kids; it is about making positive changes before the year draws to close.

These changes can span everything from sorting finances and changing morning routines to making changes that are good for the environment or planning the next holiday.

September is a month that is pregnant with possibilities, and an opportunity to set new plans in motion before the onset of the chaotic festive season.

What does it mean for marketers?

The back-to-school vibes are infectious, and adults across the board are looking for inspiration on how to make positive changes in their lives.

Facebook and Instagram offer inspiration and the opportunity to discover new ideas and products to help make positive changes and develop new habits and routines.

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