Back-to-School Marketing for Local Retail Businesses

07.18.2019 Cox Media

Back-to-School Marketing for Local Retail Businesses

The back-to-school season is a critical time of year for retailers in almost any industry. Whether you specialize in clothing, electronics, school supplies, furniture, and/or everyday items like groceries and other home goods, the back-to-school frenzy drives a way of shopping activity among everyone from small children to college students—and, most importantly, their parents.

Retailers are understandably eager to drum up back-to-school marketing ideas that will raise brand awareness and drive purchases among these consumers. For brick-and-mortar retailers, the stakes are even higher given the role in-store shopping plays during this retail season: Deloitte’s 2018 Back-to-School Survey reports that, in spite of online shopping’s ever-increasing share of retail sales, physical stores can expect heavy foot traffic from back-to-school shoppers. Of the $27.6 billion in sales expected from this year’s back-to-school shopping season, 57 percent of that money will go to brick-and-mortar stores.

But while physical shopping destinations have the inside lane when fighting for back-to-school dollars, successful retailers need to leverage digital marketing channels to capture these sales. The competition for consumers will be intense, and retail brands should be prepared to wage a multi-channel battle for these coveted seasonal sales. Here are some back-to-school promotion ideas to help you build a comprehensive strategy.

The Importance of OTT Marketing

The rise of over-the-top (OTT) content services is further proof that content, more than publishers and platforms, is the most important factor to consider when marketing to an audience—especially a younger, school-going crowd. OTT content is everywhere: Hulu, HBO, ESPN and CBS are just some of the new OTT services that gives consumers options when choosing how to consume their content.

It also gives marketers more flexibility in choosing how, where, and at what price they present their marketing messaging to consumers. OTT services allow ad space to be purchased either from the publishers themselves, or through the platforms the content is being run on. There’s also an opportunity to run OTT marketing campaigns through programmatic bidding for ad space—a strategy that, according to MediaPost, offers great prices currently, since the market demand for this inventory is not as high right now as it projects to be in the future. This could be especially true when marketing to a local audience, where retailers figure to face minimal competition for ad space.

Thanks to these OTT options, marketers have a great opportunity to ramp up the personalization of their content by creating campaigns that target a niche audience with particular needs and interests. And these digital channels also offer rich data to analyze for insights that will improve your strategy going forward.

Seizing Upon the Multi-Screen Experience

The second-screen experience is deeply entrenched as a modern consumer habit: According to eMarketer, more than 70 percent of all U.S. adults consume second-screen content while watching something on TV or through an OTT service. The vast majority of that content is unrelated to the primary screen.

This can create challenges when trying to create supplementary second-screen content, such as social media content and other strategies that combine primary and secondary screens to integrate a more comprehensive user experience. Retailers can use a TV ad, for example, to encourage consumers to check their Facebook page for back-to-school retail promotions and other updates, and this might prove successful in capturing some of that second-screen engagement. But to win over consumers viewing unrelated content, display ads purchased through programmatic inventories is one way to capture another segment of your audience.

Ultimately, a diverse set of coordinated campaigns will help retailers cover their bases and reach a higher percentage of their local market. Multiple touchpoints with consumers, especially when coming through different channels, are an effective way to build brand awareness and create sales opportunities during a critical shopping season.

The Parent Paradox: Why TV Ads Still Matter

Although digital marketing dominates the present and future of audience targeting strategies, traditional mediums like TV still offer value that retail brands can’t afford to ignore. That’s because, according to multiple surveys, TV and traditional mediums remain more trusted among consumers than their digital counterparts. Television is the most trusted of them all: A 2017 survey from Clutch found that 61 percent of consumers trust TV advertising, underscoring the importance of maintaining a presence on this marketing channel—especially when targeting older generations like the parents of school-age children.

According to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of adults ages 30 to 49 still have a cable subscription service, meaning their TV consumption is still taking place through traditional channels. This also represents the bulk of the U.S. parenting population, making it a key point of focus for retail brands. Retailers should create local TV advertising campaign that specifically targets the parents of school-age children, making use of this traditional channel to drive brand awareness, publicize promotions, and increase sales.

When brainstorming back-to-school marketing ideas, retailers must consider a range of pain points and marketing channels. They must target both parents and their children while also building a presence across multiple digital and traditional channels. Through planning, coordination and a deep understanding of your audience, retail brands can use a multi-channel strategy to drive in-store back-to-school sales among their local customer base.

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