The Ultimate Lesson: How Back-to-School Can Prepare Marketers for Holiday 2021

As the global supply chain continues to struggle to keep up with consumers’ needs, the Back-to-School (BTS) market is the latest segment to be negatively impacted. With many children back to learning in-person this fall, the feared shortages for supplies unfortunately have become a reality.


Results showed that about 50% of consumers spent less on BTS shopping last year (source: Times Record News). While we are still waiting on this year’s results, given increasing demand for the continued shortage of BTS essentials, the numbers likely will be similar if not lower.


Observing the challenges that BTS shoppers have faced, there is much to be learned for the upcoming holiday season. With the recent chip shortage, not only is the BTS market suffering, but so are huge industries like automobiles. This will undoubtedly affect the types of products and offerings available for the holiday season. Video games, cell phones, cars, and home appliances all use chips. We need to be prepared for the most desired products to be more difficult to purchase.

What BTS Can Teach Marketers for Holiday 2021

Launch Your Holiday Marketing Campaigns Earlier

Tailor your marketing strategy to the 2021 calendar. This year, Thanksgiving is earlier and holiday shopping will begin sooner. We predict the buying cycle will therefore change. There will be five weeks of shopping leading up to Christmas. Consumers will be shopping earlier and longer further adding to the disruption in traditional holiday shopping habits.


No matter who you are targeting this year, timing is everything. We recommend keeping timing—when you want your customers viewing your products and services—at the forefront. All touchpoints will be affected, and even more reason to keep your marketing strategy fresh.  


Continue to Bet on eCommerce & Test New Channels

Retail eCommerce sales are projected to make up almost 19% of total holiday retail sales this year (source: eMarketer). Due to the pandemic, we saw more of an online push last year than ever before, which continued to propel marketers’ digital spend forward. This year, retailers are again putting emphasis on eCommerce, and we are expecting a similarly early start to the holiday season, especially due to rumors that Amazon will promote a second Prime day this fall. Additionally, offering earlier holiday sales would ideally help avoid fulfillment issues later in the season.


With increased digital adoption and more time spent online, there has never been a better time to explore other digital avenues such as Connected TV (CTV) and Digital Audio. Check out our most recent post on “Why CTV Right Now?” to learn more about this channel.   


Understand that Location Matters: The “Shop Local” Trend Endures.

In January, we shared retail predictions for 2021 with many of them ringing true. Specifically, “Shop Local” prevails, and will be especially important to keep in mind. With consumers’ potentially negative BTS experiences tied with last year’s holiday shopping, many will shop locally to avoid dealing with inventory issues, shipping delays or added fees.


Focusing on your targeted acquisition strategy as well as paid search (hint: check out geo targeting capabilities) is especially relevant this year.  


Increased Foot Traffic Is a Possibility.

With a pandemic that’s lasted for 1.5+ years, consumers understand what it means to shop in-store. They are now familiar with BOPIS and physically shopping in PPE. Due to the current state of the supply chain, it is possible that traffic in traditional stores may increase slightly this holiday because of consumers’ BTS shopping experiences and anticipation regarding inventory issues and shipping delays.


We recommend accounting for this pickup in your CRM systems, holiday promotions and marketing communications. 


Rely on Customer Loyalty…Keep Your Bottom-of-Funnel Customers & Prospects Close.

Being familiar with your brand, having experience with your customer service team, knowing the quality of your products and services…are all increasingly important factors. As more consumers experience delays with BTS products and gear up for holiday, they will rely on the brands they know and love. Additionally, they will likely present a higher AOV than top-of-funnel or newer customers because they trust your brand, regardless of supply chain issues or warnings about shipping delays.


Not sure who your target customers and prospects are or how to identify them? Uncover powerful insights with data & analytical tools like forecasting, attribution, database management, and digital operations. 


Overall, experts say that some of the shortages and frustrations surrounding BTS materials and equipment could have been solved by shopping earlier. In fact, they warn “start shopping online now” (source: News10). That said, the pointed execution of your marketing campaigns featuring strategy and revenue generation are our goal. Taking into account the many macro challenges this year presents, we look forwarding to ‘acing’ this test together!

Sources: Times Record News, eMarketer, ©2021 Insider Intelligence Inc., Ask Wonder, Tech Walla