While back to school is supposed to mark the end of summer and a new chapter in a student’s life, these days it really means one thing: shopping season. Students dream of the new gear they’ll be sporting, but for parents it means emptying out their pockets for new notebooks, sneakers and other school essentials. And for brands, it means the beginning of the push that will lead into Holiday 2016 shopping.

back to schoolThe back to school season is huge – second only to winter holiday shopping season, and consumers are spending a lot on back to school – $68 billion to be precise, according to the NRF’s stats from 2015. However, more recent studies have shown consumers may be pulling back the reins on back to school shopping this year. According to a recent Bizrate Insights poll, 62% of households plan to spend less this year on back to school shopping – $606 for primary, middle and high school students, and $1,086 for college students on average.

With less money potentially being spent in 2016, it’s increasingly important for brands to hone in on their marketing messages to reach the right audience. It’s also equally as important tell these stories through the correct avenues and at the right time. With shopper distrust of traditional brand advertising on the rise, and an influx in social media dominance (and therefore mobile usage) influencing purchasing decisions, now is the time to test other marketing channels like influencer marketing.

Here are our tips for getting started with your back to school campaigns, and why you’re already late to the game if you haven’t started yet.

How Consumers Are Shopping For Back To School

Before tackling where and when to find consumers, we first asked how consumers are planning to spend during this back to school season. The stats we found were surprising – check them out for yourself…

  • Right now, about 69% of shoppers use their mobile device to research products (Bizright Insights)
  • Every two out of three shoppers turn to blogs, social media, or online reviews for their back to school clothing inspiration (Crowdtap Study)
  • Mobile shopping is growing, and it is about to be an integral part of the 2016 season of back to school shopping, with nearly 20% of shoppers purchasing items directly via mobile devices (NRF Report)

In today’s interconnected world, consumers are turning to mobile devices for inspiration more than ever, meaning shopping no longer just happens in-store or on a computer. Nowadays more customers feel comfortable and confident purchasing in the moment on their phone – perhaps even when they’re first introduced to a product.

How to Reach Back to School Shoppers

Social Media has always been an important part of any marketing campaign, but these reported upticks in mobile usage only amplify its importance. In fact 80% of social media time is now spent on mobile devices according to ComScore, and 74% of consumers rely on social media to influence their purchasing decisions according to ODM Group.

Let’s take a look at some stats about some of the most popular social media platforms in influencer marketing, YouTube and Instagram:

With 82% of consumers more likely to follow an influencers decision vs. the 73% who would follow an average consumer’s decision (MarketingSherpa), utilizing influencers in a brand marketing approach is the smartest move you can make.

Why You Should Start Your Back To School Campaigns Now

How customers are shopping this back to school season may be surprising, but what’s more surprising is when they’re planning to do their shopping. According to Bizrate Insights, 24% of shoppers have already completed their back to school shopping before the month of July.

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Of course there are still shoppers out there – there are always those who wait until the last minute (have you ever been to the mall on Christmas eve?). About 63% of shoppers plan to do their shopping throughout July and early August, with over 50% happening from mid-July to mid-August (aka RIGHT NOW). With influencer marketing campaigns taking an average 2 – 3 weeks to get content live, it’s now or never.

Who You Should Work With

There are hundreds of thousands of creators out there, so we know how hard it is to narrow down your options to who would best represent your brand. And back to school shopping season doesn’t make the choice any easier. Partnering with a younger creator, who typically has a like minded audience, is not a bad place to start. Bizrate Insights says 59% of shoppers are influenced by their children’s preferences when shopping for back to school items, and these children’s preferences could easily be swayed by their favorite YouTubers or Instagramers. However, you may also want to consider the young adult creators who can reach viewers that tend to do their own shopping.

Another great option are mom-focussed content creators on YouTube. As stated by Marketing Land this past May,

“Mommy bloggers are influencers who are already creating content that is being avidly followed by parents, and the back-to-school shopping season is no exception. Brands looking to reach Millennial moms can partner with these bloggers to insert products into the influencer’s photogenic lifestyle.”

Keep in mind, the creators you work with ultimately come down to what you think is the best audience for your product. As we approach the end of July, make sure you have your back to school influencer marketing plans in order. There’s still time to reach 65% of back to school shoppers. #GetSponsored