Retailers can better leverage social media this back-to-school season

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Retailers can better leverage social media this back-to-school season

By Robert Rothschild - 08/25/2020

The global pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in retail.

And with back-to-school season picking up, consumers will be turning toward their favorite social platforms instead of window shopping for ideas on what to buy. This has created a clear opportunity for brands to optimize your marketing mix and reach consumers where they are right now. By better understanding what content and products consumers are looking for, retailers can leverage social ads to connect with digital shoppers this fall.

New consumer buying habits
Brick-and-mortar retailers have been forced into the omnichannel reality that exists with today’s pandemic. As a result of this shift, cost per thousand (CPM) rates for retailers and e-com have become virtually the same, whereas earlier in the pandemic retail advertising prices were considerably cheaper. This competition for online shoppers will force retailers to rethink their digital advertising. 

With consumers opting for new purchasing options like buy online and curbside pick-up, retailers need to launch localized offers at scale, targeting shoppers with customized messaging, local store inventory and store condition information to drive optimal experiences for consumers.

Back-to-school industry shift
It’s not just how consumers are buying, but what they are buying that will change this year. Even with the economic downturn, a new poll from the NRF indicates that this will be a record year for spending due to the increased reliance on technology for education. 

A spending season that once focused on notebooks and sneakers, now includes computers, monitors and other technology products needed to connect students with teachers virtually. 

For retailers, this means they will need to showcase the value that their product brings to creating a more digitally connected and health-centric school reopening. And with price-conscious parents spending more on technology this season, brands may need to consider deals and other promotions that help parents stick to their budgets. 

Creating a winning back-to-school campaign
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from these unusual times, it’s that pausing marketing is not an option. Brands that made the decision to stop communication during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have effectively been invisible. 

Instead, retailers should prepare consumers for normalcy by focusing on proper and timely messaging, turning the focus to offers and deals, and making a quick transition to offer services and products that are relevant and timely. 

With consumers and retailers alike trying to navigate this new normal, it’s crucial that brands are strategic and agile with their back-to-school campaigns. To help, here are some best practices to maximize the impact of your offline sales with your online campaigns: 

●    Optimize for in-store and online sales/conversions to maximize the total campaign impact. 
●    Display nearest store locations with map cards, include directions, business hours, and other helpful information in the creative. 
●    Promote products with high demand such as bestsellers, special offers, and seasonal items. Remember to take regional variations into account! 
●    Provide options to buy online or pick up in-store. 
●    Tailor creative for mobile screens to maximize ad effectiveness. 
●    Use radius targeting to reach shoppers close to your stores. 
●    Consider immersive, full-screen mobile ad formats such as Canvas Ads to create digital versions of circulars.

To accommodate the digital consumer and their shifting priorities, the secret for advertisers is agility. Winning brands will continue to monitor consumer behavior closely, offering products and services that are relevant, timely and valuable ahead of the school year, and then adapt their advertising channels and messaging accordingly. 

Having a deep understanding of your audience - both parents and students - will translate not only into higher brand loyalty, but a greater return on ad spend.

Robert Rothschild is VP and global head of marketing at

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