5 Small Business Marketing Tips for Back-To-School Shopping

Small businesses will want to get in on the marketing opportunities during this year’s back-to-school shopping season, as it’s promising to be a strong one. Retail sales are forecasted to be higher than even pre-pandemic levels.

Sales from mid-July to early September are expected to rise 5.5% year over year and 6.7% compared with 2019, according to a forecast released by Mastercard SpendingPulse, which reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets around the world.

“Back to school has always been a prime season for retailers. This year, the broader reopening brings an exciting wave of optimism as children prepare for another school year, and the grown-ups in their lives approach a similar ‘return to office’ scenario,” says Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Inc., in a news release for the SpendingPulse report.

“This back-to-school season will be defined by choice as online sales remain robust, brick and mortar browsing regains momentum and strong promotions help retailers compete for shoppers' wallets.”

Here are 5 back-to-school marketing ideas for how your business can attract customers and increase sales this summer, and ideally beyond.

BOGO Deals For Roommates Or New Friends. This year’s back-to-school season is perfect for a BOGO promotion, says Kristen McCormick, senior managing editor at the digital advertising and marketing company WordStream.

“Encourage roommates and (a small circle of) new friends to visit your location and bond with each other by taking a class or sharing a meal together,” she writes in a blog posted by LOCALiQ. “This is helpful right now as students ease back in to socializing and venture out to make new friends.”

Offer Future-Use Coupons. These types of coupons are super popular with big retailers such as Old Navy during traditional holiday shopping seasons like Christmas. And it can work for back to school shopping too.

Create a future-use coupon in digital or printed form (whatever makes sense for your business) for customers who are coming in or buying online from you this summer.

“This is a great way to encourage repeat business after the ‘rush’ of back-to-school is over,” WordStream’s McCormick writes in the LOCALiQ blog.

Special Student Discounts. Of course, this is a great idea for small businesses located in a college town or near a local high school. A student discount could be for a first-time purchase offer or something ongoing.

And if you’re hesitant because your location, services or products don’t draw a “typical” student, keep in mind your back-to-school offer could reach potential customers who are part of the nontraditional student population, which includes a wide range of ages and demographics (and buying power).

Offer Discounts During the First Month of School. This could work well for businesses that aren’t directly in the retail back-to-school shopping sector, i.e., school supplies, apparel, etc.

Whether you run a coffee shop or fitness studio, offering a 10 percent discount that first month could draw parents, teachers and students into your business at a time when enthusiasm for the new school year is high.  (The key is to get them in now for a chance at their repeat business!)

Back to School or End of Summer Sale. Put simply, consumers still love sales, whatever the season or reason.

So, go old-school simple – link your promotion to the back-to-school theme, like offer a special dish or a run a special sale that speaks to the end of summer or new beginnings.

“The start of the school year is a pretty significant shift in our lives,” writes McCormick. “Use this time to run “last chance” deals. This could be your customers’ last chance to lock in soon-to-rise summer rates or to enjoy an in-season-only product or service.”

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