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6 Smart E-Commerce Strategies for Back-to-School Shopping

If there’s one thing you can count on year after year, it’s the well-known routine of kids going back to school. But this year, getting back to school may look a little different for some students due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Whether it’s attending school virtually or heading back to a building, there’s one task that remains the same — school supplies have to be bought and the new school year requires preparation. 

But it’s not only families who have to plan for this rite of passage. With proper planning, businesses can gain additional revenue by capturing a piece of the school shopper’s budget. As an e-commerce business, are you wondering if it’s worth your time to make plans for back-to-school shoppers?

According to the National Retail Federation, last year families with elementary school-age children were predicted to spend an average of $696.70 on school supplies. College shoppers would spend even more money, coming in with an average of $976.78. This is an incredible amount for any family’s budget —  and it’s also an opportunity for e-commerce to connect with your shoppers and provide a much-needed service.

Here are 6 strategies for your e-commerce business to get ready for back-to-school shopping and connect with your shoppers during this shopping season.

1. Make Back-To-School Shopping Part of Your Marketing Every Year

As you’re laying out your promotional and editorial calendar each year, don’t forget to include events for school shopping. It’s easy to forget the back-to-school shoppers as you’re focusing on other big holiday shopping events, but this is now a major shopping season. According to a Shopify study conducted in 2018, over $58.1B was spent online for back-to-school season — making it a lucrative time of year for any business.


Consider offering special discounts or promotions specifically when your shoppers are making their back-to-school purchases. You could offer free shipping or a discount with a special code. No matter how you do it, offering a promotional discount with a clear expiration date can help motivate shoppers to buy their back-to-school supplies ahead of time.

Editorial Calendar

As you create a marketing or editorial calendar in advance, evaluate last year’s numbers to see if you had an increase in revenue you can attribute to back-to-school shopping. Use this to help define when your messaging should begin and expand on this idea for your shoppers. If you’re a new (or seasoned) business, research when shoppers begin making purchases to get ready for school.

2. Create an Email Campaign

Email is a great way to connect with your shoppers. But many businesses struggle with knowing how to send a message to their shoppers without clogging up their inbox or getting deleted right away. It’s a delicate balance, but there are strategies you can use to lure back-to-school shoppers.

Utilize Your Email Distribution List

You can start with your own email distribution list. You can send reminders and helpful hints to help your shoppers prepare for the upcoming back-to-school season. You can offer ideas and checklists, or links to content on your site they might find useful. Or you could also include a special offer only for your email subscribers such as free shipping or a coupon code for a discount. 

Use a Cart Abandonment Email

If your customer’s have visited your site before but didn’t convert their cart to a purchase, don’t worry, you can still win them back. By sending an email reminder, you can convert some of these school shoppers into customers. Sometimes potential shoppers need a little nudge, and a strategic email may be all that’s needed to get more items sold.

3. Get Your Social Media Game On

Your social media presence is likely an essential part of your marketing strategy already. There are several ways to connect with your shoppers specifically about back-to-school shopping. Whether it’s through targeted Facebook ads or using Instagram stories to promote your business, there are multiple ways to plug into shoppers’ back-to-school needs. You can also add links to your social media profiles to your email newsletters, making it even easier to connect with your school shoppers.

Whatever you decide, social media should be an integral part of every ecommerce business’ plans. Smart back-to-school ecommerce social media strategies can help get shoppers to your site and increase your Average Order Value (AOV).

4. Update Your Website

Before the thought of updating your website starts causing great anxiety, there are easy updates you can make without making a major overhaul. You can use your website to remind your shoppers of what they need for the back-to-school season. Since we now know shoppers are spending a serious amount of money online for school supplies, it’s worth the effort to get your website ready.

Back-to-School Messaging

Some ideas for websites involve using popups (also known as overlays or dialogue boxes) to bring attention to new sale items added or encourage an email signup (you’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to popups). You could also run special promotions or incentives for back-to-school merchandise. You could even try using callouts for items such as “perfect for back to school” or “get back-to-school ready” with specific items.

Optimize Your Site

The shopper’s user experience (UX) on your site is critical throughout the year, but seems more so for back-to-school shopping because parents and students are so busy. You can create a better UX by checking your site speed and making sure it’s fast as possible. You can run a security audit so you can reassure shoppers they are making secure purchases. You can make it easier for users to shop for items and find the information they need. There are multiple ways you can make your site easier for back-to-school shopping.

5. Get Mobile Ready

It’s probably not surprising to find out your shoppers are making more purchases now on smartphones than ever before. What may be surprising, is how important it has become for your e-commerce strategies. The same Shopify study in 2018 referenced earlier, also found over 66% of Shopify users made purchases via mobile. This is a great incentive for businesses to get their site optimized for mobile if you haven’t done so already.

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced this priority even more. E-commerce spending is up over 30%, and businesses have had to quickly adapt. Consumers want access to stores on their phones, whether it’s books or beauty products, and this trend is likely to continue as the new school year approaches.

You can get mobile ready for your shoppers by creating an app for online purchases. Providing an app to make seamless purchases is one way to create amazing shopper experiences. You can also optimize your website for speed, which translates to a better experience on a mobile device. You can also make sure the web hosting company you’re using is the best choice for your mobile shoppers. The good news is, not only will you be ready for back-to-school shoppers, but you’ll be creating a better overall shopping experience for all of your customers. 

6. Offer the Splitit Installment Plan Option

College shoppers and school shoppers have one major thing in common — they are faced with major expenses as they head back to school. One advantage you can offer to your shoppers to help ease this burden is the ability to make monthly installment payments with Splitit

Your shoppers will appreciate the help Spliit can provide. Splitit offers your shoppers a tremendous benefit by allowing them to split their purchase payment into smaller, more manageable monthly payments. Shoppers can stay within their monthly budgets and don’t have to worry about credit checks or additional paperwork. The COVID-19 crisis has shown more people reaching out to credit card companies to make special payment arrangements, and Splitit can be offered as an alternative to these arrangements. 

Businesses receive major benefits from Splitit too. Not only does offering Splitit lead to a higher customer satisfaction rate among your shoppers, but using Splitit results in a 20% increase in AOV for online transactions. Shoppers have a variety of options for online shopping and using Splitit is one of the best ways you can make your site stand out. 

Back-to-school ecommerce strategies can be a great way to increase your revenue and capture a piece of the astounding amount spent on school supplies. Partnering with Splitit can make the back-to-school shopping season even more affordable for your shoppers while getting them ready for another great school year.

Sara Coleman (Content Contributor), June 11, 2020 Share this article

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