By: Ashley Byars
With the economy strengthening and most schools re-opening for in-person learning, many parents and students are celebrating the back-to-school season. Recent parent surveys predict that this positive outlook, plus child relief payments, will increase average back-to-school spending 16% over last year, up to $612 per K-through-12 student. Technology purchases, in particular, are expected to soar by 37% as digital learning tools replace traditional school supplies in many homes.
Along with these positives, affordability remains top of mind as many families with lower incomes struggle to regain pre-pandemic pay. Feeding America predicts that more than 42 million people may experience food insecurity this year, including 13 million children. African American, Latino and Native American families are at higher risk.
With a wide spectrum of consumers beginning their back-to-school shopping, we examined what impact these marketplace trends may have on social impact campaigns.
Back-to-School Shoppers Are Staying Online
Shopping habits changed over the course of the pandemic, from households switching brands to more consumers shopping online. We believe these trends are here to stay for back-to-school season. 60% of parents plan to mostly shop online this year, according to School Shopping Trends, a study by Mulberry. Major retailers like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom plan to offer new pop-up concepts to provide digital shoppers with a convenient place to pick-up or return online orders.
As shopping habits evolve, it’s imperative for cause marketers to keep up with providing consumers multiple giving options. Offer both eCommerce giving options and in-store signage and register donations to:
- Increase giving potential
- Build affinity
- Re-engage donors across both channels
(Photo above: Bloomingdales new pop-up concept shop, Bloomies.)
Brands Turn to TikTok to Improve Authenticity
Using TikTok advertising to reach youth has been popular over the last year. It’s gaining steam among marketers as students look to up their fashion game after a year at home. Many brands are focusing their back-to-school campaigns on influencers and finding success in reaching not only young shoppers, but also their parents. According to Rakuten, 74% of parents have purchased an item through a link or image in a post by a social media influencer.
Dick’s Sporting Goods is tapping into this trend by partnering with top Gen Z TikTok influencers to create their back-to-school promotions. They allowed the influencers to be part of the process from planning to production to capture their real-time feedback on developing the campaign concepts. The result was three major campaign videos that will be shown across digital channels and television.
The key takeaway is that, yes, influencers are here to stay, but more importantly, authenticity remains king. Cause marketers are tapping influencers who have the pulse on the generation they are trying reach in order to understand what matters to them and plan campaigns accordingly.
Partnerships Address the Affordability Gap
The pandemic was extremely difficult for families surviving on low incomes, with the cost of e-learning technology on top of regular school supply lists. According to a recent survey, 35% of parents are not looking forward to back-to-school shopping due to budget conflicts, and almost 20% of parents are turning to curated sites, apps or browser extensions to find deals, rewards and discounts.
To help low-income families, Ibotta, a leading rewards platform, announced “Back to School Free for ALL,” giving over a million children free school supplies. They created an impressive partnership with major brands like Kleenex, Skippy and Nature’s Own to bring this program to life. Families can redeem the school supply and lunchbox staples bundle by downloading the free Ibotta app. The campaign also includes special back-to-school discounts from additional brands through the app. Other large retailers like Target and Kohls are focusing on “extra-affordable back-to-school looks” and providing special teacher discounts.
We predict many social impact partnerships will help address the affordability gap in the months ahead as families get back on their feet. It’s also a lesson in creative partnerships as brands are eager for ways to help. This opens up partnership possibilities beyond register donations into longer-term, mission-driven partnerships that will have a true impact in alleviating challenges for low-income families.
(Photo above: Ibotta school supply bundles in partnership with Kleenex, Skippy, Smuckers, Nature’s Own and others.)
How are changes in back-to-school shopping affecting your social impact campaigns? Let us know in the comments or contact us if you’d like to swap ideas.