We all remember the thrill of stocking up on our favorite pens, flipping through a brand new planner, and picking out the perfect first-day-of-school outfit. For many students and parents, back-to-school marks an exciting mid-year refresh. That’s why it has historically rivaled as one of the top retail holidays in the US. But with varying COVID-19 regulations across states, it can be difficult for brands to figure out how to navigate the back-to-school season this year.
Whether students are physically going back to school or attending online classes, this back-to-school season is shaping up to be a strong sales season for brands, even when compared to pre-pandemic years. In fact, analysts at Mastercard predict that 2021 back-to-school sales in the US will grow 6.7% from 2019 and 5.5% from 2020.
If you’re looking to take a piece of the pie, here’s why you should invest in influencer marketing — plus, our tips for crafting a successful influencer strategy for a hybrid back-to-school season.
Why work with influencers for back-to-school campaigns?
As the academic year resumes, brands need to reconnect with back-to-school consumers in a way that reflects current times and resonates with a variety of audiences.
Remember that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people of color, working mothers, and less affluent communities. Consumers have been affected in a variety of ways and have very different perspectives. Some parents and students may be eager to get back into the classroom as pandemic restrictions loosen up, while others may still feel reluctant to return to in-person learning or have anxieties about unprecedented financial burdens.
By working with a diverse pool of influencers on your back-to-school campaign, you can resonate with students and parents in a variety of situations. Influencers can tell a story around how they personally feel about this atypical back-to-school season, and explain how your brand can help. For instance, Danielle Wiley, Founder & CEO of Sway Group, recommends that brands co-create a campaign around:
- Affordable school supplies
- Easy teacher gifts
- Online shopping and contactless delivery
- The shift from home learning to traditional supplies
- The best hand sanitizers and masks for students
- Specialized products (like antimicrobial backpacks and lunchboxes)
- Clothing and accessory trends
These types of campaigns will allow consumers to see that your brand is conscious of their physical, emotional, and financial concerns.
Plus, through influencers, you can provide your target audience with detailed product and service reviews from a source that they trust. This type of social proof is priceless when it comes to consumers’ purchasing decisions.
How should brands plan around the hybrid back-to-school environment in 2021?
One back-to-school message cannot possibly fit all this year.
Since your target market likely isn’t sharing a unified experience, it’s important to incorporate a multitude of strategies to support people from all walks of life for this back-to-school season. Here’s what we recommend.
Implement a solid ecommerce strategy
The shift to ecommerce has accelerated by roughly 5 years due to the pandemic and ecommerce trends show that online shopping is here to stay. As the adoption of online shopping accelerates, it’s a good idea for brands to focus on reaching consumers in the digital world where they spend most of their time. Start planning your influencer campaign with these 3 things in mind.
1. Lead your influencer marketing strategy with messaging that highlights your brand values. Influencers can highlight your brand values and get the message out more broadly than your brand can do alone. They can tell stories about getting their kids back in school, what this next year will look like for their families, what products they’ll be buying, and more — seamlessly sharing how your brand is supporting people of all circumstances for back-to-school and the options you’re offering for their wide spectrum of budgets.
2. Focus your efforts on video-centric platforms. 81% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase online, so have influencers post a video walking their audience through your product in detail. Drive conversions to your mobile site or app by asking influencers to post video content on Instagram Stories, TikTok, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Here are some relevant campaign examples for each channel:
- On TikTok, creators can post a video around college dorm room must-haves.
- On Instagram Stories, creators can discuss summer preparation for the transition back to in-person schooling.
- On Pinterest, creators can create an Idea Pin showing different videos of them walking through back-to-school organization hacks.
- On Snapchat, creators can share short back-to-school hauls and provide their audience with a shopping checklist.
Monitor trends on each social media platform for more influencer campaign ideas. And remember to repurpose the high-quality influencer content for social commerce.
3. Boost sales through influencer promos. Give each influencer a unique promo code to share with their audience. This is a win-win for all parties involved. Influencers get to build stronger relationships with their community, consumers get the best deals, and your brand drives more sales online.
If you’ve got Shopify, you can use Aspire’s Shopify integration to automatically generate unique promo codes for every influencer in your program and easily track the results.
But don’t neglect in-store opportunities
As we recover from the pandemic, many consumers are excited to go shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Physical store sales have not only rebounded, but exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Just take a look at these numbers:
- In-store sales are $1.7 billion higher than 2020 and $400 million higher than 2019.
- Over 70% of in-store customers spend over $50, compared to 54% of online shoppers who spend over $50.
- Year to date, there have been more store openings than closings for the first time since March 2020 with 3,199 store openings and 2,569 store closings.
While we are in an ecommerce-focused era, there are many perks that come with driving customers in store, such as impulse purchases, higher average order value (AOV), and a deeper sense of community.
So, what does all this mean for your influencer strategy?
While ecommerce is here to stay, the resurgence of brick-and-mortar will not jeopardize that growth — and vice versa. Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at The NPD Group, explained this perfectly: “Dual-channel growth demonstrates the need to link digital and in-store experiences. Consumers want multidimensional retail options.”
On top of your ecommerce strategy, work with influencers to encourage consumers to shop in stores this back-to-school season. Here are 3 ways to do so.
1. Leverage locals. Specifically on TikTok — which is known to populate For You Page content based on location — partner with influencers who live near one of your stores and ask them to create content highlighting your product. Create a sense of FOMO by using language like, “Run, don’t walk to [Store].”
But if you’re having difficulty finding influencers in a specific location, try Aspire’s suite of creator discovery tools to easily connect with local influencers. Specifically, our powerful influencer search engine allows you to filter not only by location, but also by social following size, audience and creator demographics, aesthetic, and more.
2. Use store locators. Instead of influencers driving clicks to your website, have the CTA lead to a store locator page and track those clicks. Be sure to create a store locator that is socially optimized and reflects your digital experience.
3. Boost posts. Put ad spend behind high-quality influencer content through influencer whitelisting and target specific regions where your stores are located. Your CTA button can say “Get directions” rather than the typical “Shop now” or “Learn more.”
While you can manually whitelist influencers by asking for access via Facebook Business Manager, you can streamline this whole process by using Aspire’s Brand Access Manager (BAM). BAM allows brands to:
- Repurpose influencer-generated content directly on creators social accounts to create high-performing ads or boost existing posts
- Create new audiences using creators’ followers and engagers
- Test and optimize ads with creators’ social accounts directly in Facebook Ads Manager
- Gain access to creator accounts to fully control your media buying in-house
- Request for advertiser access directly in the collaboration terms
- Automatically connect to your Facebook Business Manager to reduce the back-and-forth with creators
Celebrate back-to-school season with the help of influencers
We’re getting into a huge spending quarter, as people start shopping more between July and December. Implement influencers into your back-to-school marketing strategy to lead with storytelling and connect with consumers from all walks of life.
Interested in seeing how Aspire can power your back-to-school strategy? Book a call with one of our strategists.