With back-to-school shopping spend expected to near $83 billion this year, this late-summer buying period is second only to Christmas in terms of sales volume. And, as with most retail categories, an increasing percentage of that total spend is moving online.
That said, Amazon looms large, now controlling about 50 percent of the e-commerce market, which means brands need all the help they can get in capturing their portion of back-to-school dollars. So why not take a page from the e-commerce giant itself? Partnerships with third parties represent a significant portion of Amazon’s success, and there’s no reason other brands can’t harness this powerful model for their own benefit. In this article, we’ll take a look at five tips for getting the most out of partner and affiliate channels in the back-to-school season.
Define Specific Back-To-School Offers and Strategies
Retailers need to go big with their back-to-school messaging while getting granular wherever necessary and valuable. “Back to school” means different things to different parents and students, and your messaging should acknowledge that by taking a segmented approach that recognizes the differing elementary, middle, high school and college needs. Your buyer segments should also recognize the differences in buyer habits. Early season shoppers spend more than average, but increasing numbers of shoppers are waiting until the last minute to find the best possible deals.
The back-to-school purchase mix is shifting, and it’s important to start with your own sales data to time category-specific offers to the ideal time for purchases. Then, identify key partners that reach parents and students in your critical sales periods and equip them with offers that are likely to resonate.
Take a Data-Driven Approach to Program Optimization
Back-to-school campaigns should be dynamic, living things. Once you establish your initial partners and campaigns, don’t just track conversions. Analyze the categories and items most likely to be sold by key partners or types of partners and adjust your campaigns to capitalize on their strengths. It’s important to work closely with your partners to share key types of data that can empower them to deliver more appealing offers to their users. By monitoring response rates to different offers and promotions, you and your partners can dynamically optimize according to those that best deliver on your KPIs.
Engage mobile shoppers through the right partners
Half of U.S. households today are led by Millennial parents who have vastly different shopping habits than the previous generation. And not surprisingly, many of those new habits start with their mobile devices, including back-to-school purchasing. As such, retailers need to prioritize partnerships with brands and apps that deliver stellar mobile browsing and shopping experiences—even for basic items like notebooks and pens. Furthermore, marketers need to ensure their methods of measurement and attribution can accurately track and report on all mobile conversions.
Influencer marketing is a worthy year-round pursuit, but it’s an especially powerful seasonal tactic. After all, during the summer months, many students and their parents are able to dedicate even larger portions of time to follow their favorite media personalities. Alliances with influential parent bloggers—or even celebrities—to promote your products can be exceptionally effective in driving both awareness and sales.
Form strategic brand-to-brand partnerships
Partner marketing is about so much more than basic affiliate deals these days. When planning your back-to-school strategy, consider getting creative in forming brand-to-brand alliances that benefit both brands and consumers.
While forming the brand-to-brand partnerships, look for categories that align with your brand equity and consumer mindset, and then develop co-marketing programs and offers. In the back-to-school season, apparel and electronics represent two of the biggest categories of spend. If your brand resides in one of these categories, consider partnering in the other. If your product falls outside of these categories, both represent excellent partner targets for you.
The key to successful brand-to-brand alliances and other back-to-school partner marketing initiatives is in finding complementary brands and organizations that can align with you in the message and produce mutual benefit. Done right, partner marketing can drive significant boosts in both in-store and online back-to-school sales.