Back to School 2017: An E-Commerce Crash Course (Part 2)

July 31, 2017

In part 1 of this series, we shared several back-to-school shopping trends that will impact how brands and retailers approach digital marketing this season.

But advertising is just one part of the equation, and there are several changes to watch beyond the ones affecting mobile, search and social.

So, without further ado, here are two more important trends for the 2017 season, along with effective strategies for capturing a sizeable share of sales.

Complements Over Competition

The trend:

The days of brick-and-mortar stores competing with e-commerce sales appear to be approaching extinction, with most back-to-school shoppers using a mix of the two. More than two-thirds of back-to-school shoppers are drawn to online experiences that are complemented by physical stores. These omnichannel expectations will have a big impact on where people choose to shop this season, according to Deloitte:

  • 56% of consumers will research back-to-school products online before buying them in store
  • 49% prefer to buy from retailers that offer in-store return options for products purchased online
  • 38% prefer to buy from retailers that allow them to buy online and pick up in-store — a convenience that has 31% of back-to-school shoppers spending less time in stores this year

The strategy:

Don’t leave customers hanging. The more purchasing options you provide, the greater the chances families will buy back-to-school items from you instead of your competitors.

For example, did you know that 76% of people who do a smartphone search for something nearby visit a business within a day, and that 28% of those searches result in purchases? No doubt those numbers are even higher during the back-to-school season.

Local Inventory Ads are a great way to showcase products to nearby shoppers the moment they search for a back-to-school product on Google. By displaying your in-store inventory alongside local store hours and directions, you can ensure shoppers are drawn to your locations when conducting their pre-shopping research.

Likewise, a “Where to Buy” widget can be used to create a seamless transition from your e-commerce website to nearby retail locations where consumers can see, sample and buy your products.

Stiff Competition for Amazon

The trend:

Sellers that have relied on e-commerce giant Amazon for back-to-school sales in the past could be in for a surprise this year: Once the clear e-commerce winner for seasonal shopping, Amazon is experiencing some stiff competition from other e-commerce marketplaces. is expected to double its online back-to-school sales growth compared to Amazon, according to industry research body NPD. Another survey conducted by mobile platform provider Branding Brand reached a similar conclusion: 64% of back-to-school shoppers plan to buy from Walmart in 2017, up from 42% last year, while 50% will buy from Amazon, a decrease from the 74% who said they would buy from the web giant in 2016.

Walmart’s far from the only marketplace giving Amazon a run for its money this season. While Prime Day may have initiated a shift to mid-summer back-to-school shopping, the event has triggered a wave of promotions elsewhere. Amazon’s contenders include eBay, which has been telling consumers “Their Prime Deal Is Our Everyday Deal,” as well as Overstock and Sears, which are focusing on back-to-campus sales.

The strategy:

The convenience of online shopping and free shipping has consumers searching for back-to-school supplies on a variety of marketplaces. The greater your reach on multiple channels, the more chances you’ll have to capture sales — making this a great time to focus on fast-growing e-commerce marketplaces like eBay and Walmart.

All this to say…

Brands and retailers that wait until late summer to roll out back-to-school promotions could be missing out on a mountain of revenue potential.

Need help implementing these strategies quickly and competitively? ChannelAdvisor’s e-commerce platform is designed to accelerate the move to new marketplace and digital marketing channels. To learn how we can help you connect to more customers and optimize operations for the remainder of the back-to-school season, get in touch.