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Back to School 2021: It’s Going to Be Different

June 30, 2021
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Most kids across the country have just started their summer breaks, but that didn’t stop Amazon from leveraging the high traffic of Prime Day to promote back-to-school shopping.

The season of back to school 2021 is poised to be different this year as it follows the tail of an unpredictable 2020-2021 school year. The consumer landscape has shifted, and this is the first back-to-school season post-pandemic. There’s likely to be lots of excitement about a return to normalcy as more kids are expected to resume in-person learning

So, what does this mean for brands and advertisers? Here are some of our top predictions for the back to school 2021 season:

In-Store Back-to-School Shopping Is Poised for a Comeback

We expect retailers like Walmart and Target to see a massive increase in back-to-school shoppers this year. In fact, Waze data from the spring showed some retailers saw a 29% surge in navigation back to their physical stores from lockdown lows. In addition, a recent Harris Poll found 62% of US consumers are shopping in-store at least once per week as of the spring.

However, this doesn’t automatically mean all parents and kids are ready to dive back into their default back-to-school shopping patterns. Online channels will likely play a hefty supporting role, meaning the future is bright for an omnichannel experience.

Online Shopping and Social Commerce Will Be Key

In-store shopping is likely to be paired with online shopping and social commerce, given the increased reliance on the latter two channels during the pandemic. Spending on online channels was up 44% in 2020 compared to 2019, amounting to $861.12 billion in sales.

Our Code3 clients are putting an emphasis on marketplaces like Amazon and social platforms like Snapchat and TikTok for promoting their back-to-school campaigns this year. 

With that said, it’s important to note Amazon isn’t the only channel of focus. Our clients are running omnichannel strategies that include social media advertising and cross-promotional activities to encourage shoppers to buy online and visit a brick-and-mortar location when applicable. Also, as we strategize, the teams at Code3 have worked closely with our platform partners. In part, Snapchat, for example, recently shared its back to school resource center for marketers, which includes insights into how users leverage the platform along with rising trends. We’ve been regularly referring back to this resource to ensure we’re aligned with the inside knowledge of consumer behavior. 

Leisurewear Is Out; Fashion Is In

Clothing was one of the weakest retail categories during the pandemic, sinking an average of 44% per month since March 2020. A return to in-person learning is likely to turn clothing sales in the right direction, especially after the world has spent a year or more in leisurewear and pajamas. Kids, their parents, and college students alike will likely be excited to shop for new clothes. Our teams have been eager to innovate and go the extra mile for these clients, in particular, as they will benefit from this opportunity and could make up for lost sales in 2020. 

Launching a Back to School 2021 Campaign Starts Now

Most brands, including many of our Code3 clients, are starting to launch their back-to-school 2021 campaigns now. Many used Prime Day as a way to kick off their efforts and collect early data to help estimate customer demand in the coming months.

Whichever approach is best for your business, we wish you success this year! Back to school is always an exciting time, and we expect this year to be one for the books. If you have any questions or need additional support, please feel free to reach out or schedule a free consultation.

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