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A Look at Back-to-School Marketing

Back-to-school shopping ranks among the most lucrative times of the year for retailers, second only to the winter holidays. The National Retail Foundation (NRF) believes 2023 will be stellar for back-to-school brands, with spending expected to top $41.5 billion, up 12% from last year’s $36.9 billion. For its “Consumer Navigator: Back-to-School Shopping 2023” report, Dentsu Navigator spoke to 500+ parents of school-aged (prekindergarten through college) kids and young adults to learn about the factors driving purchasing behavior. Here’s a look at what marketers might expect.

Back to Basics
Global financial uncertainty and high inflation rates are affecting the way many parents shop. Seven out of 10 caregivers said they’re at least somewhat worried about how the current economic situation is affecting budgets, with parents of college-aged students expressing the greatest concern. But that doesn’t mean parents are skimping. In fact, 92% believe buying the right back-to-school items is crucial for their kids’ success. That may be why 45% are planning to spend more this year (over $300 per child) than last year. 

Yet timing and selection matter. Back-to-school purchases made in June and July declined by 17 points compared to last year, with many parents waiting for end-of-summer discounts. Sales and promotional events are important to 82% of shoppers this year. Basics are top of mind in terms of categories, with clothing, footwear and essential school supplies (think notebooks and pencils) at the top of the list.  

Kids Hold Sway
Many parents (92%) see back-to-school shopping as a time to bond with kids, which may be why a whopping 94% of caregivers say their children have significant influence when it comes to purchases. Regardless of age, 76% of kids are allowed to pick out “most” or “all” of their items, whether shopping in-store or online. One brand strategy is to try to involve kids by creating interactive and engaging experiences or incorporating child-friendly elements like games and product demos. Creating marketing opportunities that emphasize parent-child bonding may further strengthen brand loyalty.

Brands Buy In
Brands are getting in on the back-to-school fun with a variety of activations and campaigns. Amazon’s tongue-in-cheek 30-second ad starring comedic actor Randall Park encourages parents to save money by simply ignoring their kids’ requests. Gap paired with the popular web series Recess Therapy to promote back-to-school clothes via playful videos for kids, starring kids. And JanSport backpack brand targeted Gen Z shoppers with a debut digital-first video campaign of influencers shot on iPhones. 

Leading global marketers and agencies trust Extreme Reach for speed, accuracy, and insights into their omnichannel back-to-school campaigns and beyond. Here’s to a happy upcoming school year! Reach out today to learn more.