Back-to-school shopping is here and it presents a huge opportunity for retailers to cash in on increased shopping demand.

Back-to-school ecommerce sales is predicted to increase 14.8% to $74 Billion in 2017. This is the most lucrative sales period for ecommerce retailers in Q3, accounting for nearly 70% of all Q3 eCommerce revenue. If you haven’t made this a focus yet, it’s time to jump on it!

No need to worry. This post provides a marketing checklist so you can structure your campaigns for the end of summer and beginning of fall. Let’s get going!

1. Understand What Shoppers are Looking For

With the increase in shopping traffic, I encourage every retailer to ramp up their marketing for back to school sales. There’s a ton of opportunity and chances are some of your products fall within the scope of “back to school.” Plus, when consumers are in the buying mode, they tend to fulfill other shopping needs beyond back to school.

That being said, there are a few product categories that receive heavy interest and traffic. The top product categories are:

  • Apparel and accessories
  • Computers and consumer electronics
  • Shoes
  • School supplies
  • Books, music, and video
  • Toys and hobby related goods
  • Sporting goods

2. Identify Who Your Customers Are

The biggest back-to-school shoppers are parents. This is ideal for businesses selling back-to-school-related items because parents will have significantly more purchasing power. This also means that businesses who may not be selling popular back-to-school items could cash in on parents who are in the buying mode.

Another key segment to target is college students. They have some purchasing power and are much more likely to be shopping for themselves or at least researching the products they want to get. If you know your store is popular with college-aged consumers, it may make sense to heavily focus on this segment.

And don’t forget about schools and teachers. They need things too! School supplies, storage, and computer-related products are all categories that could grab some larger sales from this segment.

3. Create Back-to-School Themed Content

Consumers have back-to-school shopping on their minds, so feed that appetite. Create a couple pieces of content with a back-to-school theme to, at the very least, grab the attention of your shoppers. This content can be buying guides, a list of popular back-to-school products, or even a detailed review of a single product.

Here’s a fantastic example from Urban Outfitters. This shoppable college checklist provides a great starting point for shoppers but also inspires other purchases that a shopper may have not orginally thought of purchasing.

urban outfitters college checklist.jpg

Source: Urban Outfitters

4. Create Back-to-School Product Collections and Landing Pages

There are a couple reasons to create product collections and landing pages for back-to-school products. First, you cater your website specifically to attract back-to-school shoppers. This gives visitors a place to start their shopping and also limits options, making the decision making process simpler. Second, you need a few destination pages if you’re running Facebook advertisements, PPC ads, or promotions that prompt shoppers to “shop now.”

Consider creating buying guides, collections, and even sale sections specific to the back-to-school products you’re selling. Don’t think you have any products back-to-school shoppers would be interested in? Create a themed product collection anyway. By simply using that language, you may be able to drive some sales to close out Q3!


5. Run Facebook Ad Campaigns

If paid advertising is part of your marketing strategy, Facebook ads are going to make the most sense for back to school shopping for a couple of reasons. First, Facebook is becoming an excellent platform to reach shoppers of all types. Second, the targeting capabilities are endless giving you the ability to market to a large audience with a few broad parameters, or get extremely focused and deliver ads to smaller but hyper-relevant audiences. Checkout this Facebook Ads Infographic from Wordstream to see all of the targeting capabilities.

6. Build Your Email List


Email is the most powerful sales channel with ROI up to 4000%! But email marketing is nothing unless you continuously focusing on email capture. The more email contacts you have to market to, the more sales opportunities you create. Building your list now will open up more opportunities come holiday season. Aside from the benefit of fueling your email marketing engine, list building also provides an effective traffic conversion strategy.

98% of traffic leaves your site without converting. By presenting website visitors with an email pop up, you can convert a higher percentage of bounce traffic. This justifies investment in paid traffic and enhances overall traffic conversion. You can also add an incentive like a discount to increase email opt-ins and also encourage shoppers to purchase that same visit. With the intent to buy during the back to school sales surge, an offer like the one below is perfect for both email capture and sales.

7. Send Emails!

We just discussed the importance of building your email list. Now it’s time to put it to work! If you haven’t gotten your first set of back-to-school emails out yet, jump on it. This is a perfect time to notify subscribers of back-to-school-related products, seasonal sales, or even back-to-school-related content.

Also, consider reaching out about Labor Day weekend (9/2-9/4) and other key sales dates. August has some fun days that could be used in your marketing campaigns. Here’s a list of dates that could be used for unique marketing campaigns:

  • August 1 – National Girlfriend’s Day
  • August 5 – National Underwear Day (Sounds like a good time for an email)
  • August 6 – Friendship Day
  • August 9 – Book Lover’s Day
  • August 13 – Left Hander’s Day (somewhat biased as a lefty)
  • August 26 – National Dog Day
  • August 27 – Just Because Day (Run a sale…just because)

8. Use Discounts and Free Shipping

Competition is high during busy shopping seasons. back-to-school season is no exception. Today’s savvy shopper is looking for the best deal possible and they know how to find it. Whether it be comparing prices with a competitor or tracking down a promo code, shoppers are hunting for savings. The best way to keep shoppers on your site and to purchase from you is to offer promotions.

Offering discounts caters to those price shoppers and converts them into buyers. Also, shipping costs are a common reason for cart abandonment. Simply offering free shipping could be the difference in making a sale versus losing that sale to a competitor.

9. Anticipate Last Minute Shoppers

Whenever we discuss school we also have to mention procrastination. This common practice that we all know too well from our school days also applies to back-to-school shoppers. Plus, some schools and colleges don’t start until the end of September so there’s still plenty of demand.

Cater to these shoppers by continuing to market back-to-school sales and products. You can also get creative and use urgency tactics to push shoppers to capitalize on saving some money. Run your back-to-school marketing and promotions through the end of September, then you can pivot to Halloween and the holidays.

10. Combat Cart Abandonment

Wherever there is shopping, there is also cart abandonment. The stakes are definitely higher when there’s an increase in traffic and demand. To capitalize on this seasonal uptick, you need a way to convert abandoning visitors into paying customers. Here’s your solution to this pesky problem:

Present a promo code to abandoning shoppers using an exit pop up. This will grab their attention while also providing an incentive to purchase in that same visit. The top reason for cart abandonment is high price of shipping and the overall cart value. By presenting a promo code for free shipping or a discount, you can eliminate the temptation to abandon. Adding this safety net gives you one last chance at a sale while also fulfilling the potential abandoner’s needs.


To review the highlights:

  • Have an idea of who will be most likely to buy from you. Then shape your marketing strategy around them.
  • Use incentives to drive sales and build your email list while also sending out several emails about your back-to-school offerings.
  • Reduce cart abandonment by fulfilling shopper needs at key moments of their visit.

Like these tips? Get even more insight on the back to school shopping season. Here’s an infographic for back to school trends!

Read more: