Back-to-School digital marketing campaigns – Part one

No one wants to be thinking about September before the summer’s really even begun. But that’s what you have to do if you’re planning on running online ‘Back to School’ campaigns, especially eCommerce websites which rely on certain times of the year such as this for the majority of their online sales. Back to school is the second biggest shopping season after the winter, with sales reaching almost $69 billion last year – the average person spent about $603 on back-to-school supplies, apparel and clothing in 2011 according to NRF.

BIGinsight’s June monthly consumer survey states that 31% of shoppers will be doing comparative shopping online, with almost 50% looking for more sales. It’s not enough to simply build a website and hope customers will come and purchase – the key to online digital success during the busy back to school season lies in thinking like your customers and responding to how they behave online.

  • Your site must be visually appealing and user friendly.
  • You need to be visible on the search engines.
  • You need to extend your reach beyond those people who already know you.

How do you do that?

Back-to-School Digital Marketing CampaignAs a retailer, there are several key groups of customers that you should be targeting for maximum exposure and online effectiveness. In this blog post, I will cover back-to-school strategies to target people who are trying to achieve a goal on your website. Strategies to target people looking for the product or service you offer but haven’t found your site yet will be covered in my next post.

People are trying to achieve a goal when they come to your website. At the core of all digital marketing efforts is your website – all other digital marketing efforts are secondary to your website’s performance. Before trying to increase traffic to your site, you must ensure that your site is effective for those people who have already found it – they have come to your site with an intent – if that intent is to make a purchase, you need to make it as easier as possible for them to fulfill that intent and increase your revenue. In this diagram, each of the three outer rings are digital marketing strategies that can work independently of each other, but none will be successful if your website is not performing to its highest potential.

10 tips to optimize your website and increase conversions

Below are 10 website optimization tips to instantly improve the number of visitors converting to customers:

Fix the Obvious – Do a crawl of your site or use webmaster tools to check for 404 errors and broken links. Fix them. Make sure that you’re ready for 404 errors to happen by having a good 404 page.

Ensure website content is useful to your audience – Not only is it the reason people come to your site in the first place, but it is a huge consideration for search engines in determining your ranking. Ask yourself, ‘does the content of my site stress the benefits of my products or service, or simply the features?’ For example: A stationary store could say “We have a great selection of back to school supplies”. What they should be saying is something like “We have all your back to school needs under one roof, at exceptionally low prices”

Have a good visual hierarchy – Make it as easy as possible for users to scan the page for the information that is relevant to them by minimizing barriers such as large, text filled complex graphics. Use text formatting and colours that are easy to read. If you are running offers or special deals, make sure these pop out of the page.

Promote “Desire Paths” – Most people want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Help get them there by using promotional areas devoted to back to school features and/or develop a special “back to school” navigation menu. Create shopping lists to help people ensure they have everything they need, or microsites with everything they need in one place.

Back-to-School Digital Marketing Campaign desire path

Tailor Your Value Proposition– Mediative conducted a survey into online shopper behaviour as part of a study featuring Walmart, released earlier this year (Download Part One and Part Two for free). When participants were interviewed about their online shopping behaviours, their responses indicated the following

  • The most popular pieces of information that online shoppers are looking for are: Price, Ratings and Reviews, Product Information, Inventory, Product Comparison, and Pictures.
  • For research and shopping, the most important website characteristics are: Ease of Use, Trust and Reputation, Clear Return Policy, Quality of Information, Aesthetics.
  • When asked what would prompt them to shop online, participants responded: Better Prices, Online Discounts, Convenience, Online-Only Availability, No Sales Pressure.
  • When asked what would prompt them to not shop online, participants responded: Account Registration Required, Unable to Touch/Feel Product, Lack of Sales Assistance, Shipping Costs and Wait Times, In-Store Specials, Return Shipping Costs.

Incorporate this type of messaging into your site, and make it prominent. E.g. Staples ran a back to school campaign in 2011 offering a Savings Pass for $10 that gave 15% off everything purchased. A great way to get more customers, encourage more spending, as well as making the customer happy.

Product Badging – Help customers identify new items, sale items, great gift ideas, popular items, free shipping items, and top rated items by using product badging (virtual “stickers” on select images on your website)

Back-to-School Digital Marketing Campaign product badging

Create Trust: Anyone can put just about anything on the Internet, so you need to provide information that will help your visitors believe you are credible and trustworthy. Provide contact information – this often puts the visitor more at ease. During your check out process use trust marks like Verisign or McAfee to reinforce that the checkout process is secure, and ensure your return policies are clear (if it’s allowed, who pays the shipping etc).

Optimize Your Checkout Process – Reduce the risk of shopping cart abandonment by ensuring that the shopper has been exposed to clear messaging about pricing throughout the process, (e.g. upfront pricing, price guarantees, shipping rates, taxes and fees etc).

Optimize your web forms – Asking for unnecessary information or making forms too long or difficult to fill out means your visitors are less likely to convert.

Improve the Mobile Experience – Businesses that want to remain competitive and have visibility online have to optimize for mobile. The best mobile websites are those that replicate the “app” look and feel and are focused solely on the tasks visitors might want to complete on their mobile devices.

TIP: Use your imagination – are you a retailer or service provider who thinks your products or services don’t fall into the “back-to-school” category? Think outside the box:

  • Spas could promote “back-to-school” packages for Mom’s who now have more time.
  • A hairdresser could have “back-to-school” haircut specials.

The possibilities are endless if you put your mind to it!

Read Part 2, which looks at back-to-school strategies for targeting people looking for the product or service you offer but haven’t found your site yet.