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Survey: Retailers prioritize back-to-school over holiday

Retailers have big hopes for the back-to-school season, with six in 10 saying it is more important than the upcoming holiday shopping period.

According to a new survey of retailers from digital promotions platform RetailMeNot, 80% of respondents say their company is ready for back-to-school, significantly higher than those who said the same in 2020 (65%), during peak stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents are significantly more likely this year than in 2020 (61% vs. 48%) to say back-to-school is their main priority over holiday shopping.

[Read more: Back-to-school spending will hit all-time high]

Not surprisingly given these figures, 77% of respondents they plan to increase their marketing investment for back-to-school season, compared to 64% who planned to do the same in 2020. Respondents are also significantly more likely than they were in 2020 (77% vs. 65%) to say they will increase the year-over-year discounts they provide consumers.

In addition, seven in 10 respondents say they will be offering deeper discounts to online shoppers this year, and 62% say their company has made substantial changes to their back-to-school e-commerce strategies this year. Promotional strategies across online and in-store will differ, with 50% of respondents offering a different amount of deals across online and in-store, and the other half running exclusive deals more often through one channel or running different types of promotions across the two channels.

The most common personalization tactic respondents aim to implement are targeted back-to-school deals related on a shopper’s search history (76%) Most respondents will be running personalized advertisements on social media (71%), or specialized advertisements based on a shopper’s search history (61%). At least three in five will be sending emails containing discounts/marketing messaging related to back-to-school to current (66%) or lapsed (61%) customers.

Nearly three in four (73%) respondents will be leveraging personalization to drive increases in sales volume. And the majority (56%) admit that personalized tactics have been the most effective way to reach customers in the past. Fifty-five percent say personalization will allow their company to save money on their marketing budget.

Over seven in 10 (71%) respondents say they will begin their back-to-school marketing efforts earlier this year than they did in 2020. Nearly half (47%) plan to start running promotional offering in July this year, significantly higher than those who did the same in 2020 (34%).

Conversely, only 16% of respondents will be starting their promotional offerings for back-to-school in August or later. Nearly twice as many (27%) started in August or later in 2020. While the majority of respondents (58%) say they plan to run their deepest discounts around the same time they did last year, 39% expect to run them earlier than they had in 2020.

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