Back to school…a shopaholics dream or a marketing gimmick?

If you have been on Facebook within the past 168 hours (yes, that is 7 days), you have likely seen all the “back-to-school” photos of children dressed to the nines in their newest outfits, coolest backpacks, hair actually combed for the first time since they got out in June.  Or, You may have seen those of us that don’t yet have children complaining about the traffic on our work commute-school is back in, so half of the mother’s out there forget how to drive, school buses stop every 2 feet, and the elementary schools forgot to review the carpool line and make changes before the year started, forcing cars to back up in the street. Or, You have noticed all the stores around posting SALE signs out for “BACK-TO-SCHOOL” shopping, deals, & savings.

I can clearly remember back-to-school shopping as a child. My mom and I would pack up and drive to Charlotte, the closest decent mall to Hickory, and shop till we dropped for the hippest clothes for my back-to-school wardrobe…My fashonista self was not going to wear the styles from the previous year, even if they were still in good condition …my how I have changed now that I spend my own hard-earned $$ on clothes (My fiance jokes that I have not bought a new piece of clothing for myself in 30 years). We hit Wal-Mart on the way back in to town for notebooks, lined paper (college ruled, duh!), pencils, pens, trapper keepers, pencil boxes, etc etc etc the list was always long-I loved “office supplies” as well!

This was always something to look forward to, but I never thought about it from a marketing standpoint. I often wonder if the back-to-school marketing is necessary, or if it is $ that people will spend anyway? According to the NRF, back-to-school shopping is second only to the Christmas Holiday for dollars spent in a season. There are some interesting numbers posted as to trends in spending over the years: Where, When, What? And a quote from an article on the NRF website insinuates the sales and discounts are also attractive this year: “It’s evident that there are plenty ‘last minute shoppers’ this year and for retailers these next two weeks are of utmost importance when it comes to attracting families who still have apparel, electronics and school supplies to stock up on,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Given how much of an impact the economy is having on consumers’ buying decisions, retailers will remain competitive up through the final sale after Labor Day, rolling out web, in-store and even mobile promotions to entice children and their parents.”

Webadvantage.net had these 8 marketing tactics posted for ways to increase sales for this season:

Last Minute Online Marketing Tactics

1. Consider a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign or contextual advertising.If you’re a retailer now might be the time to roll out the back-to-school keyword focused PPC and contextual advertising campaigns.

2. Is it time for a MySpace or YouTube ad buy? Considering the primary audiences of these popular social media and networking sites, it might be worth investigating an ad buy on these sites to promote back-to-school merchandise or offers.

3. Do a back-to-school email marketing campaign. A Pew/Internet and American Life study shows that 72% of college students check email at least once a day. A back-to-school email promo with a last-minute deal or offering might be a good move.

4. Special affiliate promotions. Get your affiliates to help advertise special back-to-school promotions for products.

5. Co-marketing / co-promotion with other e-tailers. Work together with other partners or e-tailers to do co-promotions for products. For instance if you sell dorm furniture you might want to develop a promotion with a company selling textbooks.

6. Create a viral marketing campaign. Consider the success of Burger King’s viral marketing campaign that set up site where visitors could “Simpsonize” an image of themselves. Perhaps a clever video campaign or an electronics giveaway contest is a good way to drum up sales and promote your brand.

7. Advertise on coupon and deal sites. Put a back-to-school ad on sites like CouponCabin.com and OnSale.com

8. Optimize and distribute a press release. Announce a promotion or new product through a search engine optimized press release to get extra visibility online during the back-to-school season.

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