Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It?

As a parent raising three healthy, active kids, I know “back to school” is a busy time. Between making sure everyone is registered for the school season, ensuring they all have clothes that fit (and are free of holes), and everyone is immunized, there’s barely time left to breath. However, I’m a marketer, too; I can’t help but think about the business side of all this back to school activity. I can’t help wondering how our ecommerce readers are doing with this season…

Back to School MarketingBack to school sales traditionally start at the beginning of August and end in early to mid September. In the meantime, brand name stores are frantically throwing discounts at their visitors in an attempt to grab some of the estimated $83.3 billion in consumer spending*. To put that amount in perspective, the combined spending of K-12 and college runs a close second to the winter holidays.

For K-12, that means the average parent will spend approximately $688.62 on their kids for the school year. –And by the way, this amount leaves out the $129.20 and $95.44 spent on shoes and school supplies (notebooks, backpacks, pencils) respectively.

AdRoll recently published an infographic, based on statistics gathered from the National Retail Federation, PriceGrabber, Accenture and others (Beat the Bell: Back to School Shopping). The statistics are interesting, especially from an eCommerce point of view.

The Winds of Change Blow Toward eCommerce

Online shopping is becoming a large part of our everyday lives, even more so for this back to school shopping season. Recent fiscal events have pointed out that eventually we all have to pay the piper; consequently, we’re moving away from a credit society back to the basics of cold, hard cash. Thanks to the economy, many parents are turning to online stores, sales and search to find the best deals.

What Are They Looking For?

The answer is… everything. Shoes, electronics, pens, pencils, notebooks, backpacks… Little Susie needs new skirts; Johnny needs new jeans. Karen needs new hair ties and barrettes; Steve needs a fancy calculator. Then there are the athletic activities, which call for matching athletic equipment like baseballs, bats, footballs, cleats, running shoes and swimming gear. It all costs money, and parents need to spread the savings.

How the Big Brand Merchants Do eCommerce

Target, Macy’s, Office Depot, oh, my! For every need there is a brand, and for every brand, there is a sale… almost. Big brand merchants – i.e. the well known companies – are going all out.

Back to School Sales: The PPC

Bombarded by marketing…

Toms.com boasts that you can buy today and re-define fashion. BestBuy.com says they have great back to college essentials. Target just says “Back to Schools”. Apple states that students can save up to $200 dollars on a Mac AND get a $100 iTunes card. Staples says you can save on all your back to school needs with new deals every week. Discount school supply offers great prices and fast delivery.

Wow. As a parent, I feel bombarded. As a marketer, I’m shocked at Target’s lack of good grammar. As well, I know that those ad places aren’t cheap for this time of year. Even the big dogs are shooting for ad space. Can the smaller businesses hope to compete here? Probably not – at least not right now.

Back to School Sales: The SERPs

521 million search results, anyone? That’s quite a bit of competition, but that’s just from a simple search. Those 521 million results could include any page that has back, school, sales or other, similar terms. Using the “allintitle” search modifier gives you the “real” competition. While these results may not be actively targeting back to school, the search engines consider them relevant.

  • allintitle:back to school: narrows the results to 3,480,000, but that also includes results like the movie, Back to School. We need to narrow the results a bit more.
  • allintitle:back to school sales – 18,000
  • allintitle:back to school clothes – 13,800
  • allintitle:back to school deals – 34,600

The point? Short tale key terms aren’t the way to go. You have to be diligent in your research and targeted with your terms if you hope to make it into the public’s eye for search.

Back To School Sales: The Sites

Moments of truth in marketing…

Big brand sites are lessons in ad placement. Of course, they can afford multi-million dollar market research – something a lot of SMBs can’t afford. However, the smart entrepreneur can learn a thing or two from perusing branded sites.

Merchants Ready to Profit with Back to School Promotions (Allison Howen, Website Magazine) covers a few of them, such as Apple, who targets college-going shoppers. They also touch on Office Depot, Old Navy, Macy’s, and Target. Even though I enjoyed the article, I’d like to point out three things these sites really do right:

Free Shipping Promotions: Target offers everyday free shipping and easy in-store returns. They haven’t buried this information under anything. Everywhere you look on the site, you’ll find the “free shipping” label at the top of the site, and the statement “free shipping when you spend $50″ under the products. Now, I don’t know what the Target marketing team calls that, but I call it “in your face reminders”. Very nice.

Dedicated to the Cause: Staples has an entire “Back to School” section. Wal-Mart has Classrooms. Both sections are dedicated to back to school savings and allow you to shop by grade or need. Wal-Mart understands their target market, and offers value bundles to meet their needs. Staples shows the buyer their immediate savings. Both companies dedicated an area to their back to school shoppers, making it both easier and less distracting to find what they need. Immediately seeing the discounts allows shoppers to feel successful in being perceptive and thrifty.

Front and Center Marketing: All of the examples – Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Macy’s, Staples – use front and center marketing for this important retail season. Notice, please, that while they all have brick and mortar businesses, they’ve also spent quite a lot of time and thought on their online presence in order to grab the Internet shopper. From the time the visitor hits the site in the search for school supplies to the time they close the deal, “Back to School” signs and hokey sayings are front and center.

Learn From Big Brands

You can grab your piece of the 83.3 billion dollar pie. You just have to pick up a few things. For instance, one of the things big brands know is that it’s all about timing. They’ll be taking up the PPC space and the top of the SERPs for a few more weeks while the heavy duty back to school season is still in full swing. You, on the other hand, if you can hold out until they drop out, can grab some of the last big push.

Not all parents bought everything that was needed this season. Many held off, waiting for (drum roll please) bigger sales. Can anyone say “clearance”? Take the next few weeks as an opportunity to tighten your site, cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. When the big brands back off, be ready with your “Back to School Sale… The Sequel” sale. Have all your marketing in place to roll it off the lines!

If you’re not sure what to do with your site, take the time to peruse the other stores. What have they done for this season? What changes or allowances have they made? How can you take their actions and make them uniquely yours?

The long and the short of it is this: during sales seasons, many eCommerce SMBs get left behind, buried under big business money. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. If you aren’t prepared now, for this back to school season, get prepared for the other seasons (Halloween and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it).

Plan for as many eventualities as possible. Spread your budget to incorporate a marketing expert and get their feedback. Go back to school yourself, and learn how the big brands do it.

*Shopping statistics provided by National Retail Federation and BIGinsight

Many thanks to Tom Fishburne, the Marketoonist, for the use of his humor and cartoons

About Jahnelle Pittman

All around SEO coding geek; AKA "Editing Bulldog" A true geek with a heart of code and SEO, I'm the Senior Project Manager of Level343 and Head of the SEO Department. They call me the "Editing Bulldog" - I'm pretty sure I'm the editing nightmare of writers everywhere, waving a pen across every document in the search for perfect client deliverables. When not buried in paperwork, I'm happily buried in website code, SEO research or playing with my kids.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] buying choices. Are you ready to maximize your stores potential? Read further with this this excellent article on back-to-school tips for online retailers or check out these in-depth [...]

  2. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/8lsDl4eq

  3. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? via @LeadersWest – http://t.co/FFGN6ypK

  4. Anise Smith says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/JWD5k0Lu via @SEOcopy

  5. Anise Smith says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/JWD5k0Lu via @SEOcopy

  6. Carla Young says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/LrAFwat8 via @SEOcopy

  7. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/EJcFf6Ms via @SEOcopy

  8. Gale Minchew says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/raLx9RQi via @SEOcopy

  9. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/raLx9RQi via @SEOcopy

  10. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/W5pntT1N via @SEOcopy

  11. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/cZy3QT8M via @SEOcopy

  12. SEM Barista says:

    RT @leaderswest Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/HjlIOXLY via @SEOcopy

  13. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/cZy3QT8M via @SEOcopy

  14. Jodi Okun says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/D9FGpZTn via @SEOcopy

  15. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/jMzFVZtO via @SEOcopy

  16. kybunnies says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/Ktkwa41H via @SEOcopy

  17. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/vkGmuCu4 via @SEOcopy

  18. DemandCon says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/wIGFS7Uq via @SEOcopy

  19. Cognovant says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/1jlCfVBF via @SEOcopy

  20. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/QEmDC6YX via @SEOcopy

  21. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/ZxkqUAR5 via @SEOcopy

  22. Donna says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/NUwli9mN via @SEOcopy

  23. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/K34QRBJk via @SEOcopy

  24. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/lYSmmYjh via @jrpittman

  25. A.R.Karthick says:

    Back to School eCommerce: What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/O35PFiGf | via @SEOcopy

  26. Patricia_69 says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/cw2EKTaC via @SEOcopy

  27. Jeff Jacobs says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/cw2EKTaC via @SEOcopy

  28. Joe Prasad says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/ntRCT2X3 via @SEOcopy

  29. GenuineSEO says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/t6esx8zI via @SEOcopy

  30. GenuineSEO says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/t6esx8zI via @SEOcopy

  31. MensaSmoov says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/h6h56MSe via @SEOcopy

  32. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/h6h56MSe via @SEOcopy

  33. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/H0nJlKuh via @SEOcopy

  34. Khadim says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/oF26JEyL via @SEOcopy

  35. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/UxgGPfU5 via @SEOcopy

  36. Kathi Kruse says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/UxgGPfU5 via @SEOcopy

  37. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/wJFSUNTT

  38. RT @level343: Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? #backtoschool http://t.co/opsO8RlX

  39. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/xm3Bv2Xb

  40. Jason Ramsey says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/0J8TgKCp via @SEOcopy

  41. Wayne Barker says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? >> http://t.co/dnng8SGF << via @jrpittman on @level343

  42. Tobey Deys says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/Lf8tJR96 via @SEOcopy

  43. Ruhani Rabin says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/kU1JvaKU via @SEOcopy

  44. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/ksFvKCGg via @SEOcopy

  45. Ching Ya says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/f1RkDLg3 via @SEOcopy

  46. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/ouireyQV via @SEOcopy

  47. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/oYVozr1o

  48. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/G6gxUs6U via @SEOcopy

  49. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/VEikfvCx

  50. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/pBSHhKvF via @SEOcopy

  51. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/pBSHhKvF via @SEOcopy

  52. Iconic88 says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/pBSHhKvF via @SEOcopy

  53. MeetuSinghal says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/MddOInrO via @SEOcopy

  54. Adam justice says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/KlLZl4Ve via @SEOcopy

  55. Michelle Kay says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/YY08Zy7i via @SEOcopy

  56. iggy pintado says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/zW30ydyQ via @SEOcopy

  57. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? – Categories:BrandingOnline MarketingSEOTags: back to school… http://t.co/uqZonSG6

  58. Amit Verma says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/AYwo3pVp via @SEOcopy

  59. Jamie Crager says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/qY81JGuO via @SEOcopy

  60. Sean Charles says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/lMj5GWiQ via @SEOcopy

  61. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/azuQMeZu

  62. Laura Crest says:

    Great stuff by @JRPittman: Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? #back to school #Online Marketing http://t.co/wegQ8e6m

  63. Laura Crest says:

    Great stuff by @JRPittman: Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? #back to school #Online Marketing http://t.co/wegQ8e6m

  64. Laura Crest says:

    Great stuff by @JRPittman: Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? #back to school #Online Marketing http://t.co/wegQ8e6m

  65. Level 343 – Back to School eCommerce – What Are You Doing About It http://t.co/rrK7fLPG

  66. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/iy0anB98 via @SEOcopy

  67. Amy Vernon says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/IvEyjCln via @SEOcopy

  68. Bonnie Burns says:

    RT @searchcentral: RT @SEOcopy Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/Ntnghtxc

  69. Bonnie Burns says:

    RT @SEOcopy Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/AvSIih3r

  70. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/btNMBzjh via @SEOcopy

  71. Paul Morin says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/jLs5mE8D via @SEOcopy

  72. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? | http://t.co/tzBQYjls | Our latest fresh squeezed post

  73. Misty Waters says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/jUsAGKy2 via @SEOcopy

  74. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/aA4k44Cv via @SEOcopy

  75. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/aA4k44Cv via @SEOcopy

  76. Iconic88 says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/pBSHhKvF via @SEOcopy

  77. Iconic88 says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/pBSHhKvF via @SEOcopy

  78. Tibor Shanto says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/B3V83p3C via @SEOcopy

  79. Shaan Haider says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/F3HRCu9R via @SEOcopy

  80. Sue Cooper says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/aSDzOdxt

  81. Thomas says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/tLe2MUwp via @SEOcopy

  82. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/YjH6yIbE

  83. Tritia Pocci says:

    INTERNET: Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/CK8ZEirr #internet #web

  84. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/YySNHBjd :: @web-designs.gr

  85. RT @SEOcopy Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/0JgtnNqW

  86. SEOTweets.me says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/YixJFgFd (via @jrpittman)

  87. David Harry says:

    RT @SEOcopy Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/0JgtnNqW

  88. Ana Hoffman says:

    Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/WP1bZ5Gi via @SEOCopy

  89. RT @SEOcopy Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It? http://t.co/AvSIih3r

  90. Back to School eCommerce | What Are You Doing About It?: As a parent raising three healthy, active… http://t.co/8v2pV1P0 via @level343

Speak Your Mind

*