Getting Schooled on Back-to-School

How and where to reach Millennial Moms and Dads

Back-to-school season can put a lot of pressure on parents to make the grade. There’s buying the right clothes, shoes and backpacks. There’s the added stress from the seemingly “perfect moms”– you know, the ones whose children come to school with Instagram-worthy lunches and clothing trendier than yours (all of which we’re clearly envious, but still). Moms and dads aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure: Retail brands are being forced to learn a thing or two from millennial parents who seek an unrivaled brand experience that reaches them whenever, wherever and however they shop. According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school sales are expected to reach $83.6B in 2017 – a 10% increase over last year. And for brands that are hungry for a piece of the pie, it’s imperative that they embrace the back-to-school experience in its entirety. Check out our guide to see just what it takes to get Millennial moms and dads on your side this season.

1. Get Social

Clever brands use social media to drive awareness and engage parents to make sales. Because today’s parent spends 1.3 times more time on Facebook than a non-parent, brands need to be more active than ever on social media – especially since parents prefer using social media to discover new products. From fun photos and resonant anecdotes to helpful problem-solvers and targeted messaging, brands can use social media to effectively reach parents.

2. Go Mobile

Ninety-two percent of parents use mobile devices during back-to-school shopping, with another 33 percent using mobile devices while making purchases in store, according to The Shelf. It’s estimated that online content influences 36 percent of every dollar spent in-store. This, in turn, creates an opportunity for retail brands to reach Mom and Dad with location-based promotion notifications and offer them coupons when they’re actually in the store. In addition, Millennial parents are 30% more likely than Boomer parents to use mobile devices to make informed purchasing decisions. What’s cooler than getting a coupon sent to your phone the exact moment you need it?

3. All About Timing

Brands looking to strongly connect with parents need to align their biggest promotions during peak weeks of shopping. School supplies are consistently purchased from July through September. Clothing and fitness apparel increase in July whereas electronics and technology are purchased primarily in September. And not only do seasons drive interest, kids guide many of parents’ shopping decisions, too. Mom or Dad are unlikely to have a particularly successful shopping trip – especially for clothes and personalized supplies – until whomever they’re shopping for is ready, too.

4. Don’t Forget the College Kids

Connecting with college kids (whose parents may now step back from their buying decisions) is also worth consideration. According to a recent study conducted by UM and Chegg, college students are more likely to notice advertising within mobile apps or on Facebook. Brands looking to target college students should know they expect to spend $163 billion on non-essential items in the next year as they head back to campus.

5. Deal in Dad

While Mom might be the primary purchase driver, don’t forget Dad. Dads are apt to spend 37 percent more than moms during back-to-school shopping to save time – meaning they’re less likely to search for and use coupons. But that doesn’t mean Pops shouldn’t be marketed to, as well. While Mom has final say, dads are more equally sharing parenting duties with 7 in 10 report having full or partial shopping responsibility.

6. When AI Turns Time into Money

Every brand is looking for ways to enhance the customer journey, but not all of them are taking advantage of artificial intelligence. Staples stepped into the future by simplifying back-to-school mobile shopping with an AI-based list-scanning feature on their app. With it, they’re “enabling users to snap a photo of their shopping list, send it to a store associate through an AI-based chat and receive the best product options. All which can be purchased and picked up in store or shipped to their homes.” To parents, time is a precious commodity. By incorporating these marketing technologies (“martech”) into your strategy, you can help bridge the gap between physical and digital experiences for which the busy parent will thank you.

Brands looking to connect with Mom, Dad or the kids must connect across all distribution channels to deliver an unparalleled shopping experience. The International Council of Shopping Centers indicates that customers who come through an omnichannel experience spend 3.5 times more money than those who are single-channel shoppers. With consumers’ expectations rising higher than ever before, it’s a brand’s job to tailor their experience to each customer if they want to be considered. If that’s not enough reason to make sure your brand is where it needs to be (i.e., everywhere), it may be time to go back to school.

For more tips and insights on how to take your marketing from now to next, subscribe to our newsletter or contact Nicole Stone – Senior Vice President, Business Development at or 414.270.7235.

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