23 Back-to-School Marketing Ideas for Retailers in 2024

back to school retail ideas

As summer comes to a close, parents are prepping to send their kids back to school. This event marks one of the largest shopping booms of the year, with parents to be expected to spend $37 billion. In 2021, back-to-school shopping rose by 16% as kids went back to class, and that number is expected to rise even more this year. You can use some of the most creative back-to-school marketing ideas from big retailers, to highlight your fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and capture these shoppers.

What is Back-to-School marketing?

Back-to-school marketing is the necessary strategic and marketing implementation deployed by retailers that occur in summer, right before the start of the academic year. The goal is to capitalize and take advantage of the hype for school-related products, like tech, and clothing so that consumers can be ready for their return to school, or college. Many different industries can benefit from this increased demand, like retail, fashion, electronics, bookstores, and more.   

Back-to-school spending in the post-COVID-19 era

Source: printful.com

Covid-19 may be a distant memory for shoppers right now, but the economic turbulence due to inflation and war is affecting consumers globally. Uncertainty is still a major factor, shaping consumer habits, and shoppers are looking for affordable options at every chance they have. 

As far as Back-to-school shopping is concerned, though, it still remains a top priority during summer, with sales surpassing every other industry. Last year, the average spending per household was $849 for school students and $1200 for college students. Worldwide, spending on the school and college market reaches $108.1 billion, and by 2024 it is expected to increase by $15.12 billion. Taking into account that 73% of consumers will start their back-to-school shopping in late July until early August, you have to start organizing your marketing calendar sooner than later. 

The timeline of the back-to-school season

Globally, the back-to-school season and the exact opening dates may vary between countries, schools, and colleges. 

  • Typically, in the United States, the academic year begins between mid-August and early September. Keep in mind that dates may vary according to the state, the district, and the educational system. 
  • In Europe, countries like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany schools are opening in the same timeframe, from late August to early September. Scandinavian and Nordic countries usually kick off their academic year in mid to late August. In southern countries, like Italy and Greece, the school season takes place in mid-September or early October. 
  • As far as Asia is concerned, the opening dates depend, again, on the regulations of each country and region. China and Hong Kong start in early September, Japan in April, South Korea in March, and in India either June or July. Schools in Southeastern Asian countries, for example, Singapore and Thailand, usually begin in January or early February.  

What is the ideal time to start promoting BTS products?

To get a clearer picture of the correct timeline and schedule your campaigns effectively, first, you have to identify the target audience and the geography of your audience. Marketers have to consider launching their Back-to-school campaigns based on the shopping behavior of their demographics. With that said, the shopping season for BTS products occurs before the beginning of the season, approximately two months prior, so that parents or students have enough time to respond. 

Back-to-school marketing ideas for all businesses

Even if you don’t sell clothes, electronics, or school supplies, you can attract your share of back-to-school shopping. Highlight FMCGs that may sell out before school starts. FMCG marketing strategies can help you stand out from the back-to-school competition. 

If you’re drawing a blank when it comes to back-to-school retail ideas, figure out how students could use your products to enhance school life. You may have items that would be perfect for a dorm, or products that increase organization. If you own a toy store, highlight how kids can use the toys to unwind after a hard week in the classroom. Use these time-tested back-to-school marketing ideas to get started.

Back to School marketing idea #1: Cater consumers’ needs with personalized supplies and BTS kits

Source: etsy.com

Why this works: Creating personalized BTS kits will help your business address the individual needs of your customers and gain their trust. According to your segmented customers, you can offer products related to their age. For example, high school students interested in tech may benefit from backpacks that have enough space for all their gadgets. Alternatively, students or college majors interested in sports will appreciate sportswear and sports equipment.

Channel: Online through emails, pop-ups, push notifications, in-store, social media platforms, and targeted paid ads.

Key benefits: Personalization will make your products more appealing, allow your customers to show their individual styles, and solve problems for them.

Expected Reach: The reach will be according to the channels, the budget, and the methods your brand used. Online and social media platforms will reach more potential leads according to the campaign’s duration and the resources spent. Digital targeted promotions through emails, pop-ups and push notifications will reach a more niche audience with higher chances of conversions.

Back to school marketing idea #2: Give out school-related freebies through the first month of school

Source: pennysaviour.com

Why this works: Generate interest for your online or physical shop with freebies to build word-of-mouth and awareness. Giving practical gifts that customers can use daily will keep your company at the top of their minds, increase your visibility and improve your customer experience.

Channel: In-store and online, institutions, community events

Key benefits: Practical gifts strengthen your company’s positioning and long-lasting exposure. It can foster deeper relationships with your customers and offer personalized interactions.

This is one of the most popular ideas for retailers because it helps you build brand loyalty. FMCG’s marketing strategies include building awareness with user-generated content (UGC). Ask local bloggers to cover you as part of a “back-to-school discounts” post to expand your marketing reach and build stronger brand awareness. 

Expected reach: Nearly 20 million students in the United States and 200 million worldwide — for brick-and-mortar retailers, this would vary based on how many students live in their service area.

Back to School marketing idea #3: Keep your audience informed with a back-to-school newsletter

Source: tidylady.net

Why this works: Email marketing can work like a charm on this occasion, as it will inform your subscribers about your limited offers, your promotional or exclusive discounts and your tips for the new school year.

Channel: Email

Key benefits: Direct and targeted, email marketing will aid you engage with your customers and entice them to convert. It will also offer a personalized experience while allowing you to segment your customer base to communicate relevant messages to each group. Lastly, with email, you can easily gather more data and track your campaigns.
Expected Reach:

Back to School marketing idea #4: Reach shoppers by exploiting all digital marketing channels

Source: mamble.com

Why this works: The digital age requires businesses to reach consumers on their favorite channels, not the other way around. Choose your ideal channels to engage a wider pool of shoppers, taking into account their preferences and where they spend their time.

Channel: Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok), YouTube, Pinterest, Google Ads, email marketing, influencer marketing.

Key benefits: Increased reach and brand awareness according to the user base is a significant advantage. Also, utilizing diverse platforms requires diverse formats in terms of content and visualization, aiming at targeted interactions. Collaboration with influencers and encouraging your followers to create user-generated content will also maximize your chances for better visibility.

Back to School marketing ideas for promotions and deals

Promotions and deals are essential for the effectiveness of your BTS marketing efforts. Create FOMO and urgency with pre-sale and flash deals to make a fuss and excite your audience. Another profitable way is the introduction of free shipping above a certain threshold, so make sure to recommend some similar products and increase AOV.

Another interesting tactic that you can implement is to use promo codes and discounts to increase sales and appeal to customers with lower budgets. Lastly, don’t forget about loyalty schemes that will reward your customers for their preference and support.

Back-to-school marketing idea #5: Provide special discounts for students all year round

Source: bloggeek.com.au

Why this works: Student discounts appeal to budget-conscious parents and college students. You can build brand loyalty by recognizing that students and their parents need to stretch their money. Giving special discounts all year round will foster repeat purchases and long-term loyalty, as you will be showing your audience that you can provide for them even after the back-to-school seasonality. This will also improve your retention rates and aid you build your loyalty program.

Channel: In-store and online

Key Benefit: Student discounts potentially increase your customers’ lifetime value. This is one of the best back-to-school retail ideas for building a relationship with your customers. Offering discounts to college-age students can help you convert them into loyal customers, which pays off as they grow older.

Your student customers also recognize your commitment to helping them out with their FMCG related and/or other needs. Soaring college costs can make their life more complex when students are starting out.

Expected reach: Nearly 20 million students in the United States and 200 million worldwide — most look for discounts before shopping.

Back to school marketing idea #6: Provide special discounts for teachers

Source: blog.discountsforteachers.co.uk

Teachers play an integral part in the educational system and that should be acknowledged. Killing two birds with one stone, you will also be able to increase your target audience and go beyond parents and students. Introduce discounts on classroom materials, teaching resources, or even special items.

Expected reach: The number of teachers in your area and those who attend each school. 

Back to school marketing idea #7: Provide special discounts for siblings

Source: pbs.twimg.com

Families with more than one child will benefit greatly from this back-to-school marketing idea, as they will be able to keep their budget on track. Siblings often need identical products, so being mindful of their financials will make your brand stand out from the crowd and gain long-term customers. 

Back to School marketing ideas for Social Media

Social media marketing has become the new normal because it works. It gives businesses brand visibility and the opportunity to interact with their customers in real-time, reaching them directly where they most spend their time. With roughly 35% of parents using their social media websites to aid them in their BTS shopping in 2022, adding these channels to your strategy is a no-brainer. 

Back to School marketing idea #8: Organize back-to-school giveaways and contests

Source: socital.com

Why this works:  Giveaways and contests on social media boost win-win situations between your enterprise and your customers. They can increase both your brand engagement with user-generated content and your followers.  

Channel: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok. 

Key benefits: Data accumulation, exposure, increased engagement, and subscribers are only a few of the benefits of this idea. 

Back to School marketing idea #9: Create strategic content on social media to engage your audience

Why this works: A good Back-to-school strategy doesn’t focus only on conversions, but on nurturing potential leads. Your brand needs to provide value to your consumers, so feel free to experiment with creating engaging content with productivity tips, shopping lists, or first-day outfits. 

Channel: All your social media platforms (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter)

Key benefits: By sharing content that resonates with your customers’ interests will make your brand establish expertise, boosting credibility and trust. Shareable content has the potential to become viral and make your company stand out. 

Back to School marketing idea #10: Implement an influencer marketing strategy to maximize your reach

Why this works: Influencer marketing is a great marketing strategy to make your brand known to audiences that are not aware of you. Leverage the influence of relevant personas, like mother bloggers or micro-influencers, to increase your potential audience. 

Channel: YouTube, Instagram, TikTok

Key benefits: this back-to-school marketing strategy will give you the opportunity to represent younger generations. Keep in mind that 87% of Gen Zers will actively support a brand that speaks their language and understands them. Depending on your offerings, you have a lot of different options when choosing the right influencer for you and showcase your value proposition with original content creation. 

Back-to-school marketing ideas for brick-and-mortar stores

While online shopping has risen as a result of the pandemic, many people have returned to in-person shopping. Only 13% of all purchases in the first quarter of 2021 were made online. Apply FMCG marketing strategies like social media interaction to boost items that will sell out. These back-to-school retail ideas will help you capture the people that are visiting your physical store.

Back-to-school marketing idea #11: Create school-themed displays

Why this works: Displays add to the in-store shopping experience, and they help you guide customers’ buying decisions. By putting displays near the cash register, you can capture the 93% of customers who make at least one unplanned purchase. FMCG marketing strategies are often built around impulse buys. 

Channel: In-store

Key benefits: FMCG marketing best practices include POP displays because they appeal to last-minute needs. They’re affordable and one of the traditionally effective back-to-school marketing tactics. Back-to-school store display ideas include towers of school supplies, window displays featuring fashion in a school setting, and displays around school activities. 

Expected reach: Potential 23% increase in sales — this would be visible to all in-store customers.

Back-to-school marketing idea #12: Build an in-store back-to-school installation to create a memorable customer experience

Source: pinterest.com

Why this works: Back-to-school marketing is about more than just selling products, and in-store experiences are bringing shoppers back to in-store shopping. About 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from your store if you offer them a personalized shopping experience. 

Channel: In-store

Key benefits: By offering customers a unique and personal shopping experience, you are driving them to remember your brand strongly. If it’s enjoyable, you might sell even more products. Research back-to-school backdrop ideas to enhance your in-store shopping ambiance. 

Expected reach: At least half of all customers in your area are looking for a unique shopping experience. 

Tommy Hilfiger Banner

Back to School marketing idea #13: Partner with a local organization

Why this works: One of the most lucrative marketing ideas to increase awareness is co-branded collaborations. Locate a brand that is not a competitor like nonprofit organizations, local schools, community centers, or youth organizations to build community connections and show CSR.

Channel: You can promote your co-branded campaign in a lot of different ways, like social media, your website, local media, and email marketing. Additionally, you will be promoted by all your partner’s channels.

Key benefits: Co-branded partnerships can lead to positive word-of-mouth. With a local partner, you can add more followers, demonstrate your support in your community and appeal to a specific local group.

Back-to-school marketing idea #14: Hold a special back-to-school event

Source: pinterest.com

Why this works: Events offer you a chance to meet and connect with your customers in real-time. They also help members of the community connect, which can boost loyalty in your area. FMCG marketing strategies include influencer marketing. If possible, invite influencers to your event. 

Channel: In-store and online

Key benefits: Special events give you the chance to showcase your merchandise and get feedback. They’re perfect vehicles for UGCs on social media when event attendees share photos and videos. Look for back-to-school raffle ideas and other events you can use to attract customers. 

Expected reach: About 23% of customers who attend the event will buy. 

Back-to-school marketing ideas for eCommerce retailers

If you don’t have an in-person store, you can still use back-to-school marketing to improve traffic to your online store and boost sales. The basics of FMCG marketing involve building brand awareness in a highly competitive field and apply to back to school retailers.

Back-to-school marketing idea #15: Structure a back-to-school dedicated landing page

Source: freepik.com

Why this works: Landing pages let you focus on a specific call to action like back-to-school shopping. Page visitors aren’t distracted by other parts of your website and they can concentrate on their needs on school supplies. Use FMCG marketing strategies like video content to enhance your landing page and sell your FMCGs. 

Channel: Online

Key benefits: A good landing page introduces you to people who may be visiting your site for the first time. It can help you highlight your products in a back-to-school setting and steer your customers’ attention in the direction that best suits your goals. 

Expected reach: Nearly 20 million students in the United States and 200 million worldwide.

Back-to-school marketing idea #16: Provide free shipping for all school supplies

Source: pinterest.com

Why this works: Customers are price-conscious, and they spend a lot of money on back-to-school FMCGs. Helping them save money whenever they can, will make your website more appealing to their budgets. 

Channel: Online

Key benefits: Even though you have to cover the cost of shipping, customers are more likely to shop with websites that offer it for free. 

Expected reach: About 90% of shoppers are more likely to shop at sites that offer free shipping.

Back-to-school marketing idea #17: Run a student loyalty program

Source: archive.qatarday.com/

Why this works: Loyalty programs show students that they are meaningful to your business. It can help you retain existing customers and keep students coming back all year. 

Channel: In-store and online

Key benefits: A well-structured loyalty program helps to better target students and makes you stand out from competitors. It also helps customers save money, so they may end up buying FMCGs and more. 

Expected reach: About 20% of customers

Back-to-school marketing ideas for bookstores

Whether they’re tackling a reading list or looking for a relaxing read to unwind, students have plenty of reasons to go to a bookstore. People are always wondering where to buy back-to-school supplies, but overlook bookstores. Attract your share of students with these ideas for back-to-school promotions.

Back-to-school marketing idea #18: Create product bundles

Source: pinterest.com

Why this works: Back-to-school marketing isn’t all about ads and website impressions, it’s also about increasing your sales. Students have to buy a lot of supplies and materials for school. One of the well-tested FMCG marketing strategies is to bundle and discount these. Appeal to the expense by offering bundles like books on the reading list or bundles of necessary supplies for each grade. 

Channel: In-store and online 

Key benefits: Bundling helps customers save money, which improves their conception of your store. It also helps you market multiple FMCG and other products at once instead of paying an effort to promote each. 

Expected reach: The number of students in your area.

Back to school marketing idea #19: Introduce a rewards program for achieving good grades

Why this works: Give students an incentive to join your brand and try their best academically. Associate with a brand with personal success and excellence. Rewarding them for their efforts will increase your customer engagement and brand loyalty. 

Channel: in-store, online through your website, or your app. 

Key benefits: A rewards program will give students a very strong motivation, while you will be able to demonstrate a positive brand image and the urge to support your community. It is also a very effective word-of-mouth marketing strategy for increasing awareness and visibility.

Back-to-school marketing ideas for schools

Marketing isn’t limited to retailers. Private schools, pre-k schools, and others also need to market to attract new students. These back-to-school ideas for kindergarten to high school can help you promote your school.

Back-to-school marketing idea #20: Start promoting your services early

Why this works: The application and registration time can take all summer. While the answer to “When should you go back to school shopping?” can be later for maximum savings, schools should always market earlier in the summer to attract the families living in the area. 

Channel: In-person and online

Key benefits: Promoting your services early helps you build word of mouth for your classes and programs. Get started at the end of each school year. 

Back-to-school marketing ideas for online courses platforms

Online courses are a big trend these days and the youngest generation seems to appreciate them a lot! If you’re marketing online courses, you can also appeal to back-to-school-minded shoppers.

Back-to-school marketing idea #21: Create course bundles

Why this works: Bundling is a great way to sell more courses, because students may see more value in an entire course rather than buying one level at a time. 

Channel: Online

Key benefits: Bundling makes the buying experience simpler, and helps you appeal to more online students. 

Expected reach: About 6 million Americans.

Back-to-school marketing idea #22: Provide discounts to early registrations

Source: richmondstandard.com

Why this works: Offering early registration discounts motivates people to register sooner, helping you boost your chances of filling courses and be better prepared for the demand you will face through the school year. 

Channel: Online

Key benefits: Early registration discounts help build excitement about your courses. It appeals to discount-minded shoppers and creates urgency.

Feeling overwhelmed? We have more inspiration for you. Check out the best Back to School Campaign Examples and see how 25 big retailers nailed it.

Back to School marketing ideas for the fashion industry

More often than not, students update their wardrobes to welcome the new year with a new style and attitude. Make your customers feel confident with clothing and accessories relevant to their tastes and address their uniqueness.

Back-to-school marketing idea #23: Create a back-to-school fashion webinar

Why this works: Try launching a DIY fashion webinar to give valuable tips and tricks to your followers about how they can renew their wardrobe for the new school year and provide a platform for your loyal customers. Integrate sustainable and affordable practices into your webinar to appeal to a targeted audience. 

Channel: Online, conferences, live-streaming on social media. Don’t forget to invite them with pop-ups on your website, SMS or Viber messages, and relevant newsletters. 

Key benefits: This marketing idea will add credibility to your business and show that you are an expert in your industry. It will also add an interactive aspect to your overall brand image.

Omnichannel will help you pass the test

Every retailer has different needs when creating an exceptional customer experience, but your online and in-store experiences should be consistent. Use these back-to-school retail ideas to attract customers and an omnichannel customer engagement platform to optimize their experience and move your FMCGs. 

ContactPigeon’s omnichannel customer engagement platform can help you create a seamless experience, whether your back-to-school customers are shopping in-store or online. Book a free 30-min consultation call and chat with a ContactPigeon eCommerce specialist today.

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Joyce Qian

View posts by Joyce Qian
Joyce runs Marketing at ContactPigeon. On a daily basis, she ponders on different ways innovative campaigns can translate into significant busienss growth, particularly given the ability to leverage data-driven insights. Outside of work, Joyce loves reading, traveling and exploring her new found home in the ancient city of Athens, Greece. Follow her on LinkedIn.