Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of children participated in remote learning and millions of people worked from home for more than a year. While this changed many families' education and working environments, it also changed how they prepared for the workweek—and how retailers marketed to them.

As kids return to school and employees return to work, retailers will need to take steps to prepare. Here are four back-to-work and back-to-school marketing ideas that your small business can adopt in order to appeal to these groups.

1. Offer pre-sale and flash sale deals.

In 2020, the National Retail Federation estimated that families would spend an average of $849 on back-to-school supplies. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that consumers ages 25-54 spend an average of approximately 3% of their monthly income on clothing alone. This equates to roughly $2,000 a month based on the U.S. median income.

Due to the economic hardships the pandemic caused, families are more focused on value and affordability than ever before. To get them to shop with you, consider customer loyalty rewards, pre-sales, and online flash sale deals. With a pre-sale, you can give loyal customers or select shoppers (such as those who subscribe to your marketing newsletters) access to exclusive merchandise before it is more widely available, helping them avoid some of the inventory and out-of-stock issues that have been common over the last year. You can also use email, mobile, or social media channels to offer flash deals to followers and subscribers. These deals, which are usually available for a short period of time, could entice customers to make a purchase sooner, especially if they can get free or expedited shipping on back-to-work and back-to-school must-haves they've had their eye on.

By using marketing automation technology that allows you to create and personalize limited-time offers, emails, and social campaigns, you can streamline this process and better target customers who already shared their information with you.

2. Create engaging social media content.

Focus on boosting social media engagement to drive more sales. Along with paid ads on sites like Facebook or Instagram, you can produce content with valuable information that drives consumers back to your site.

Consider creating back-to-school and back-to-work content on social media, such as the ultimate school checklist, creative lunchbox ideas, or back-to-work wardrobe must-haves. You can also integrate your products into this content, such as stationery, binders, backpacks, or computer accessories, to drive immediate sales.

3. Implement an influencer marketing strategy.

Consumers tend to purchase products and services from companies and people they trust, which is what makes influencer marketing so powerful.

Even small businesses can benefit from influencer marketing because you don't have to engage a major celebrity to help you market your business. For example, local bloggers or micro-influencers with a small but dedicated following can help you get the word out. Consider approaching a parenting blogger to make a video or blog post about the items parents need to get their kids ready for the school year, or the essentials to get ready for a return to the office, and then feature some of your products in their tips.

Influencer marketing arrangements can differ, but you may be able to offer free products to bloggers in exchange for a sponsored post. They'll just need to clearly disclose that your business sponsored the content.

4. Hold a contest or giveaway.

Contests are another tried-and-true marketing strategy that can yield great results. Depending on your budget, you could do a small $500 or $1,000 giveaway where families can enter on your website or by making a purchase online or in-store. You could also do a photo contest where customers submit their most creative or silly back-to-school or back-to-work photos, tagging your social media page to officially enter.

As an alternative to cash, you might want to give away a backpack full of back-to-school or back-to-work supplies and apparel, including some big-ticket items like a laptop, tablet, Bluetooth headphones, or other select merchandise from your store.

Preparing for the upcoming shopping season.

As your customers approach the new school year and return to their offices for work, it's best to begin formulating your marketing strategy now and come up with some creative ideas that may work for your business. Consider using marketing automation technology to streamline this process. Along with getting your marketing campaigns out there faster, this approach will give you access to analytics so you can see what works and what doesn't. Then, you can use these insights to improve future marketing campaigns.

Kids returning to their classrooms and employees returning to their offices will need new clothes, new looks, and new supplies. With these back-to-work and back-to-school marketing ideas, you can drive them to your business to find what they need and entice them to come back again and again—even after the shopping season is over.

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