Back to School Marketing Efforts: In the rush to earn a share of the $80 billion+ spent by parents getting their offspring ready for the new school year or college semester, organizations of all shapes and sizes have had to do their homework when it comes to the subject of social media – and all of their efforts may not have earned them top marks.
The math is clear. Over three quarters (77 percent) of the U.S. adult population has a social media profile. Therefore reaching out to parents via social channels should be a very cost-effective way of putting your brand front of mind.
However, one of the more curious findings of a number of Back To School (B2S) consumer behavior reports published over recent weeks is that networks such as Facebook and Twitter are taking a back seat in the path to purchase.
According to Deloitte, as recently as 2016, one in three parents were using social media to inform their shopping but just 23 percent of the parents polled for the 2018 back to school report said they had this year. Of that group, 63 percent said they use the networks for information on promotions and 59 percent for receiving coupons.
These findings could, at first glance, be a cause for concern within companies’ often straight-As marketing departments, especially when one takes into account the fact that Facebook and Google are now the only two right answers to the question “How do we target customers digitally?” It’s why, according to Coresight Research, four in five retailers have increased their advertising via social media in time for this year’s B2S shopping extravaganza.
It also seems to fly in the face of the prevailing wisdom that social channels are a means of aligning with consumers and forging stronger bonds.
“One of the golden rules of customer experience (CX) is to be where your customers are,” says Mike Small, Chief Client Officer, Sitel Group U.S. “There is no debate on this subject. Don’t forget on the Facebook Messenger platform alone, businesses and consumers exchange 8 billion messages every month. But we also need to keep in mind that for different retail events, channels will wax and wane in terms of relevance or at what moment along the path to purchase they become touch points.”
During back-to-school season, shoppers aren’t on social channels; except for when communicating with other parents about the stress – 75 percent of parents say this season creates tension with their children (Ebates). They have a list of prescribed items that they’re working through and that list significantly trims down the path to purchase.
“Despite being a bigger shopping event than Christmas, back-to-school shoppers aren’t looking for product inspiration, hence less reliance on social channels in the moments leading up to purchase,” explains Small. “But that does not mean brands and retailers should drop social studies as their major. Instead, they should add to it with another minor subject.”
That subject is understanding how generations Y and Z engage with social channels as children’s influence over which brands their parents should buy during the back-to-school season has never been stronger. They have a direct say in how $22 billion is spent on school supplies.
This is particularly true of clothes and accessories, with 80 percent of parents saying their children will have a significant say in what’s purchased. It’s a similar story for electronics and gadgets where 70 percent of parents say their children’s influence is a major part of the decision making process.
“Social media is clearly still a very important element in the sales, marketing, and servicing mix,” begins Small. “But you have to make sure that whatever the strategy or approach, it’s being targeted at the most influential group. For example, ads and videos should be on YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, the kids’ and teens’ networks of choice.”
When asked, 32 percent of U.S. teens said that Instagram is their most important social network. It’s also a platform where 50 percent of users are following at least one brand and where, according to Forrester, the engagement between brands and members is 10 times higher than on Facebook and 84 times higher than on Twitter.
“Instagram is a powerful social tool for using authentic influence and advocacy to build brand and customer base,” says Small. “But platforms that are video by default are even more effective. We respond differently to video because it is more effective at unlocking our emotions. And, as the recent Hubday on the Future of Digital Advertising revealed, when our emotions are engaged, we feel empathy and therefore find it easier to commit something to memory.”
That’s also why for teenagers who take part in social media surveys, YouTube isn’t mentioned. It isn’t perceived as a social network, but as an essential element of their daily life. It’s also a space where people are active rather than passive participants. This, in turn, is opening the doors to a host of novel ways of creating and sustaining engagement and interaction with a well thought through back-to-school marketing strategy.
“The goal should be to align yourself with teens’ favorite creators and channels so that your brand becomes part of this generation’s daily conversation,” explains Small. “But by doing so you won’t be alienating older customers. All people are YouTube users. It’s why the leading brands on the site now target campaigns and messages via interest groups, not age groups.”
From identifying and engaging the right brand influencers and firmly integrating social into your omnichannel approach, to building online communities, improving social listening and helping to create the right types of buzz, Sitel Group can make sure that by the time school’s out, your brand won’t be bottom of the class.