Back-to-School Will Be an Omnichannel Shopping Experience

Keren Shlush, Total Retail


Rather than make readers wait for the punchline, I want to lead with the fact that the 2023 back-to-school shopping experience will be omnichannel.

According to data from Nielsen IQ, 41 percent of consumers are planning on an omnichannel shopping experience for back-to-school, while 35 percent will be buying in physical stores, and 25 percent purchasing online.

Though COVID is behind us, the COVID-acquired habit of shopping digitally is still with us. That’s why the back-to-school shopping experience will begin online for most families.

Get Creative With Creators

Given the challenging economy, marketers are looking for cost-effective ways to reach their target audience.

One cost-effective channel in which we’re succeeding is our work with creators. Starting at less than $1,000 per video for creators with fewer followers, the creator channel enables marketers to run a campaign without breaking their marketing budget.

Once the creator(s) are selected, we send them the products or services they’ll be advertising as well as our video guidelines. That said, creators are being hired to create their own authentic take on the product or service they’re talking about. Therefore, it’s important to approach creators with an open mind, understanding that their posts won’t look or sound identical to corporate marketing.

Related story: How E-Commerce Can Harness Payments Innovation to Meet Consumer Demands for Back-to-School

Once creator videos and posts are live, based on the campaign metrics, the team decides whether to have that creator create more videos, to turn to other creators, or to ask that creator to create more videos while also working with other creators. Many creators focus on one platform — e.g., Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, etc. Many marketers therefore hire different creators for different platforms.

What makes creator campaigns particularly attractive in the current economic climate is the ability to spend only a few thousand dollars to start achieving initial key performance indicators. And if the campaign is working, then more videos and additional creators can easily be added and quickly produced (unlike with traditional video campaigns).

To provide some inspiration, here are a few examples of back-to-school creators across a range of platforms: 

Try Shoppable Ads

Though 54 percent of consumers will use an app for their back-to-school shopping, according to data from ironSource, one of the breakout channels for this year should be shoppable video ads. According to research from Kerv Interactive, over 40 percent of U.S. digital buyers exposed to shoppable video ads engaged the video. Those are engagement rates that will make any banner ad designer jealous. And for back-to-school, style and fashion were two of the most engaging content categories. Furthermore, with parents paying for most back-to-school purchases, the fact that most interactions with shoppable ads occur for users between the ages of 25-54 is a positive trend.

Other strong engagement and conversion metrics for shoppable ads include a 17x lift over the benchmark in Kerv Interactive’s research and the easy ability to “add to cart,” which resulted in more than 10 percent of off-site cart transfers converting into sales.

Walking the Economic Tightrope

With Deloitte forecasting that the economy will slow in the second half of 2023, consumers will still be in belt-tightening mode for back-to-school shopping. That said, though a slowdown is forecast, it’s not expected to result in a recession due to positive news, particularly in the labor market.

In 2022, school supplies were 7 percent more expensive than in 2021, according to data from Fortune. Furthermore, the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that school supplies were $168 more on average than in 2019.

So what will 2023 look like? It’s still too early to tell as the final numbers aren’t in, but marketers should expect consumers to be less brand loyal than in the past, with some even cutting their spending from 2022.

Marketers that appeal to consumers’ sense of value will win. One way to provide value is by bundling complementary products together. Value can also be communicated by accentuating other benefits like quality, convenience and sustainability.

Despite the challenging environment, by working with creators and shoppable ads, marketers have real opportunities to achieve their advertising KPIs this back-to-school shopping season.

Keren Shlush is the head of marketing at Zoomd, a marketing technology user acquisition and engagement platform.

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