back to school

Can you believe that we’re just weeks away from cracking open the school books again? Or are they iPads now? MacBooks? Some new technological device that your child has a nickname for that cost you at least a thousand dollars? Regardless of how your child or teen is learning, this is a great time for marketers to heat up the frying pan on Q3 and Q4 retail marketing campaigns focused on clothes, technology, and retail home goods. Unlike your child going to kindergarten and suddenly becoming a high school graduate, marketing campaigns happen and conclude in the blink of an eye. Let’s dive into some campaign trends and ideas to help your brand graduate into a next-level education-based marketing campaign. 

Navigating Back to School Campaigns in 2023

Back to School retail has now been delineated into two segments: Back to School and Back To College. Each segment has its own unique identity and retail traits that marketers can adapt to in their campaigns. In 2023 Back to School-based marketing campaigns have the opportunity to capitalize on $41.5 billion of retail spend. That massive number has grown substantially over the physical-to-digital education material transition over the last several years. For these non-collegiate students, the typical American home is set to spend roughly $890 per student in the household; a jump from $830 last year, which is likely tied to economic inflation.

The Generation Alpha demographic is especially notable in their influence on retail trends as they are the first generation experiencing school in a totally digital format. Generation Alpha rose from the pandemic and have become known as a demographic that is highly focused on inclusivity, sustainability, and social impact. In fact, 50% of parents of Generation Alpha students choose sustainable back-to-school products whenever possible. 

At this point, you might be asking, this demographic information is great, but where can I apply this to my programmatic campaign? We have the answer. Did you know that Alphas are heavily influenced by YouTubers who make shopping or gaming content? These students aged 6 to 16 want to purchase items displayed by their favorite digital personalities and YouTubers. This is a huge opportunity for Display, Video, and CTV campaigns focusing on electronics, clothes, and shoes, which are the three most prevalent areas of Back to School spend.

Opportunities for advertising and brand partnerships within video games such as Roblox are also massively influential as popular gaming reaches 24.2 million daily active users under the age of 13, and brands such as Forever21 and the Gap have opened virtual storefronts within the game. Even Fortnite has partnerships with Nike, Adidas, and other popular brands such as Marvel and Star Wars. 

Back to College Marketing Campaigns

Retail is even more of an opportunity for Back To College, especially with regard to higher-value retail items such as tech and home goods. Back to College Shoppers are projected to spend about $1,367 per college student this year, not including tuition or room and board. Collegiate-level retail shoppers are projected to spend a massive $94 billion in 2023, setting the pace for retail holiday spend in the months following. 43% percent of those spending more than the previous year say it is because they need more new gear, up from 32% in 2022. This tracks consumer spending for college students as nearly six in 10 parents are willing to splurge for the right reasons, like treating their child, self-expression, or better quality. 

While still motivated by digital trends, college students are less interested in following YouTubers for product advice and more interested in traditional retail trends and reputable brands as they mature in their identities and the marketplace. Brands like Apple for electronics, IKEA for furniture, and popular clothing brands will not have to do much work to attract college students to their products but they will have to appeal to them through campaigns that reach across various identity demographics.

Students will solidify their relationships with known brands in the physical-to-digital education material transition if they haven’t already, so campaigns that focus on awareness and consideration should be top of mind for technology retailers. Regarding retail goods such as furniture, college students gravitate towards affordable and easy-to-move items. One recurring expense for college students is home goods in the bedroom and living room which tracks with the traditional lifestyle of a college student moving from dorm to apartment to house. Campaigns promoting on these goods should focus on affordability, ease of integration into a student’s lifestyle, and eco-friendliness. 

Embracing the Digital Shift

It’s an exciting time for brands to rework their traditional marketing approach toward students. While we’ve acknowledged that generations are becoming increasingly online, 2023 is the first year when we have a new, fully tech-integrated generation starting school and cementing the transition away from physical learning materials. In the future, Generation Alpha will become a further template for marketers to analyze and understand as they experience their digital lives and advertising from birth, throughout the education process, and in daily life.

For more information on how to level up your back-to-school campaigns this year, contact us.