In any normal year, as the calendar flips to August, this would be the time that parents and kids of all ages would start gearing up for back-to-school plans.
Malls would be packed with busy buyers looking for the new hip shoes, clothes, backpacks and so on to meet every back-to-schooler’s need. More important than what’s on your back is what’s in your pockets – cell phones, tablets, ear buds – all sorts of technology would be flying off the shelves.
However, today, shopping early may be more important than ever.
How COVID-19 Will Change School Shopping
It goes without saying that 2020 and beyond will change our behavior forever – be it social or shopping. Due to the pandemic and the major decrease in physical shopping, students and parents will be looking online for the necessary back-to-school supplies this year and probably well into the future.
Like many groceries and personal items that still remain at a premium, school-related gear, especially technology made in China could be scarce this summer as that country has yet to see their manufacturing facilities recover.
Back-to-School is a season unto itself, and as important as many major holidays. And, like holidays, that means business, business, business.
In 2019, for students in grades K-12, spending on supplies of all kinds was up nearly 2% to $27.8 billion. For college students, parents spent over $25 billion last year, but it remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect the rise or fall of those numbers in 2020.
To remain competitive, brands that hope to maximize this shopping window need to connect with young consumers, or their parents, in the most genuine, authentic and relevant ways possible – and that means tapping into the power of social media influencers with strategies like TikTok influencer marketing and Instagram influencer marketing.
BACK TO SCHOOL – A ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTIONS
Pandemic notwithstanding, the first day of school reigns supreme as the most important day of the year for most kids and young adults. Not even birthdays can match the level of sheer excitement, nervousness, and sense of infinite possibility that a new year brings. And as many of us have gone on to become parents ourselves, we know just how exciting and nerve-wracking it can be from the other end, too!
Whether parent or child, back-to-school is an emotional time. Here are a few things that are on top of everyone’s mind:
Quality, Safety, Durability – these are the words ringing in parents’ ears as they begin their school shopping season. Is that cell phone going to break down at the worst possible moment? Will that jacket last an entire school year? Parents want to know the things they buy for their kids are going to keep them safe, protected, and last long enough to make the upfront costs worth it. Remember, high school families are projected to spend an average of $676 dollars this year per household.
When you’re young, your social sphere spans the entire universe – you’re constantly in flux between trying to fit in and establishing your own individuality. The first day of school is often a chance for reinvention, and kids are looking for products that can help them both articulate themselves and give them the confidence to connect with others.
FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
If the first day of high school is an emotional day, college is that on steroids. On top of many of the same concerns high-schoolers have about fitting in (remember, college freshmen are basically high school seniors), college students have the added pressure of living independently for the first time when the dorm doors do finally safely open. For many kids, this is also the first time they are financially responsible for themselves, and are just learning how to manage their money.
TAPPING INTO THE MOMENT WITH INFLUENCERS
We’ve established that Back-to-School is a complex, emotional time for kids and parents alike. Which is why marketing to them in a way that actually makes a difference requires an understanding of these human experiences, and creative campaigns that speak to them.
Here’s something self-evident but true: parents trust other parents. And while many television commercials begin with depictions of parents, viewers are keenly aware that they’re being marketed to by actors.
Which is why family influencers are such a powerful play in this environment – they’re real! “Family influencers are popular because of their authentic depiction of home life, including all of the concerns and worries of parenthood,” according to Eric Dahan, CEO of Open Influence, an influencer marketing agency in Los Angeles. “They connect with other parents in a very real way and can really help sway buying decisions for like-minded parents.”
Just look at the messaging in this Instagram influencer’s marketing partnership with @abercrombiekids:
“For me, I love when I can find clothes that keep & don’t fall apart after only a day of hard playing! The denim from @abercrombiekids is super durable, plus he looks so cute in his little denim jacket!”
@darlingnightingale for @abercrombiekids
In addition, because kids and school is a universal, world wide event that we all have in common, brands that tap a global influencer agency will likely have the best reach to all corners of the planet.
If there’s one thing you can say about Gen-Z and millenials that’s true across the board, it’s that they’re overwhelmingly online. Which means if you’re selling a product, there’s a community of young people talking about it on social media – period.
Take Backpackies, for example – a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing different backpacks. Kids are savvy, and marketers need to respect the fact that they can be some of the most educated consumers out there. While kids are actively searching for reviews, now is the perfect time to partner with some of their most trusted entertainers – influencers!
In addition, it’s also the perfect time to partner with the most trusted source by kids – other kids. Through influencers, brands can connect directly with younger consumers in a way that feels truly organic to their everyday experiences.
@rosiergm for @abercrombiekids
FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
The ultimate transition period, the first days of college can be a fever dream filled with plenty of adventure (and plenty of mistakes). Young shoppers are ready to assert their full independence and test their limits, and look to influencers to inform their choices.
Let’s talk about the obvious: the dorm room, a nexus of furniture and self expression, posters and teapots and packets of instant ramen. Through influencers, brands like Brita can connect with college-aged consumers and promote essentials such as water filters in language they relate to, such as their #BritaisBae campaign.
@chase_brody_mcnary for @britausa
But beyond backpacks and bean bags, college is the first time many young shoppers will encounter their first triple digit purchases. For things like laptop computers, these are likely the one and only purchases they will make for the next four years! Which is why partnerships with trusted experts on platforms like YouTube are essential for those “investment” type products, such as computers, headphones, and other electronics:
Bitwit for Bose
Let’s hope our old normal becomes the new normal again sooner than later, so kids physically get back to school and the country can get growing again. Whatever the case, unique and strategic influencer marketing strategies will be trending for the rest of the year and into the next to capture a captive social media audience while users adapt to new ways of scholastic learning whether in person or virtually.
Now more than ever, it’s important to plan ahead for every aspect of existence – to product shopping and class scheduling. Oh, and even if you may not have a dorm to sleep in or a brick-and-mortar class to attend in the Fall, you do still need those hipster shoes. High-style fashion and technology know no pandemic, so stay smart and stay safe.