How to Boost Sales During the Back-to-school Shopping Season

According to NRF’s annual Back to School and Back to College 2019 consumer survey, back-to-class is one of the top spending events for consumers, along with the winter holidays.

If that stat doesn’t tickle your interest, here’s another one that should capture your attention: back-to-School and back-to-college shoppers spend more  per household on items for the upcoming school year than consumers spend on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day combined.

I don’t know about you, but back-to-school seems like a pretty promising way to boost your retail sales this year!  Here are several tips to help you do just that:

1. Host a Back-to-School Sale

Total combined back-to-school and back-to-college spending was expected to reach $82.8 billion in 2018, which will no doubt  increase this year.

Armed with the knowledge that consumers are primed for spending during the back-to-class season, why not give them a compelling reason to visit your store by offering an irresistible deal or promotion? Just make sure your sale isn’t so good that you eat into your profits.

If you have an online store, consider offering free shipping. According to to an NRF study,  90% of participants, report that they plan on taking advantage of free shipping deals, and with 55% of back-to-school shoppers planning to make online purchases, it’s a great opportunity to capitalize on this promo choice.

In-store, take the opportunity to come up with creative sales, like bundling items for a targeted group of back-to-college students between the ages of 18 – 22, which might include things like blankets, pillows and eye masks for napping, or starter packs with lamps, coffee and eye drops for long study nights.

Even with 55% of back-to-school shoppers planning to buy online, good promotional deals can help brick-and-mortar retailers be just as successful—if not more—as their online counterparts.

2. Use the Best Channels to Promote Your Deal

A large majority of the back-to-school and back-to-college crowd fit into the Generation Z demographic, whose entire existence has been during the digital age. These young Americans live on social media, strongly value the opinions of their soical communities, and seek their advice on most purchasing decisions.

According to the article, “Forget Millennial Purchasing Power. Gen Z Is Where It’s At,” brands need to focus on the influence and buying power of Gen Z” because they don’t just influence their peers, but also their parents. In fact, about 70% of the Gen Z group are responsible for influencing their family’s spending.

Furthermore, 25% of Deloitte survey respondents reported that they planned on using social media for their back-to-school shopping. Of this group, 74% will use social media to find promotions, while 64% will use social networks to receive coupons, and 45% will browse products.

When you focus on your target audience and where they like to hang out online, it will give you a competitive edge when it comes to getting the word out about your back-to-school promotions.

3. Be Smart About Mobile

While desktop is still the preferred method for making online purchases, a Deloitte survey discovered that participants are more likely to use mobile to collect discounts and sales (61%) and learn price information (61%).

For this reason, it’s important to ensure that all of your promotions—and your website—are mobile-friendly. Google’s mobile-friendly test page will help you determine if your web pages are mobile friendly or not, so you know what to improve. You can also test out your site by opening your store on different mobile devices and making purchases.

Idealy, you should have a responsive website, meaning that all the elements of your web design will scale down to the smaller screen sizes of mobile devices. Using pop-ups for mobile? Make sure they meet Google’s guidelines for mobile-friendliness.  Also keep in mind that loading speed is crucial on mobile, so avoid using huge files that can slow things down.

To maximize your back-to-school marketing and sales efforts, all of your ads, and your online store should have the mobile functionality to ensure a seamless customer experience.

4. Sell the Products Back to School Shoppers Want

“While apparel and electronics are still the biggest budget items on back-to school shoppers’ lists, on average, households are spending more than ever on purchases like shoes and school supplies,” says the NRF. Back-to-college shoppers will also be looking for dorm furnishings, personal care items, collegiate gear and food/snacks.

And don’t forget that carrying the season’s most buzz-worthy products is also an essential part of capturing the interest of your target audience, so make sure you’re keeping up on all the latest trends.

Give thoughtful consideration to what kids going back to school need, then tailor your promotions and marketing initiatives around those items. It’s not to late to get your promotions out there! Back-to-school season starts in late July to early August—about 3 weeks before class starts—and continues even after classes begin.

5. Collaborate With Influencers

A great way to promote your back-to-school products to a wider audience is to partner with respected, popular social media figures and bloggers who already have a dedicated fanbase.

Not only will it help you get your brand and products in front of a bigger audiene, but the endorsement will resonate with other consumers. In fact, about 68% of consumers trust the online opinions of other consumers, so aligning your brand with an influencer makes you more credible and trustworthy and gives back-to-school shoppers more confidence in trying out your products.

As mentioned previously, about 70% of the Gen Z demographic is responsible for influencing family spending, so in addition to  partnering with younger influencers, you can also collaborate with an influencer whose audience is parents with school-aged kids.

6. Run a Game/Contest

During their 2017 back-to-school campaign, Staples encouraged followers to spot the seven differences in their nearly identical pictures of backpacks.

Image Source: Digital Media Solutions

This game/contest was able to engage 320,000 followers and the brand rounded out the 2017 back-to-school shopping season with $20 million in revenue.

Games and contests are a fun way to get the attention of your target audience and offer promotional discounts while also boosting sales.


The back-to-school shopping season is the second-biggest shopping occasion after the winter holidays.

From personal hygene items and dorm furnishings to groceries, apparel, and electronics, there are a lot of great opportunities for retailers to drive foot traffic and increase online sales before the school bells chime this fall!

Find out how retailers like you are saving time and making money with the Rain POS system. POS, E-commerce, and Marketing all in one.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.