With back-to-school shopping spend expected to near $83 billion this school year, this late summer buying period is second only to the November/December holiday season in terms of sales volume. And, as with most retail categories, an increasing percentage of that total spend is moving online. That said, Amazon looms large, now controlling about 50 percent of the e-commerce market, which means brands need all the help they can get in capturing their portion of back-to-school dollars. So why not take a page from the e-commerce giant itself? Partnership marketing campaigns with third parties represent a significant contributor to Amazon’s success, and there’s no reason other brands can’t harness this powerful model for their own benefit. In this article, we’ll take a look at five tips for getting the most out of partner and affiliate channels in the back-to-school season.
Retailers need to go big with their back-to-school messaging, while getting granular wherever necessary and valuable. “Back to school” means different things to different parents and students, and your messaging should acknowledge that by taking a segmented approach that recognizes the differing elementary, middle, high school and college needs. Your buyer segments should also recognize the differences in buyer habits. Early season shoppers spend more than average, but increasing numbers of shoppers are waiting until the last minute to find the best possible deals. The back-to-school purchase mix is also shifting, and it’s important to start with your own sales data to time category-specific offers to the ideal time for purchases. Then, identify key partners that reach parents and students in your critical sales periods and equip them with offers that are likely to resonate. These analytics provide a sound foundation for marketing strategies.
Back-to-school partner program campaigns should be dynamic, living things. Once you establish your initial market, partners and campaigns, don’t just track conversions. Analyze the categories and items most often sold by key partners or types of partners and adjust your campaigns to capitalize on these insights. It’s important to work closely with your partners to share key types of data that can empower them to deliver more appealing offers to their users. By monitoring response rates to different offers and promotions, you and your partners can dynamically optimize according to those that best deliver on your KPIs.
Half of U.S. households today are led by Millennial parents who have vastly different shopping habits than the previous generation. This is true for both products and services. And not surprisingly, many of those new market habits start with their mobile devices. Retailers need to prioritize channel partners and partnerships with brands and apps that deliver stellar mobile browsing and shopping. Furthermore, marketers need to ensure their methods of measurement and attribution can accurately track and report on all mobile conversions. For all audience groups and geographies.
Influencer marketing is a worthy year-round social marketing opportunity, but it’s an especially powerful seasonal tactic. Social media channels are popular with most consumers but particularly younger shoppers. After all, during the summer months, many students and their parents are able to dedicate even larger portions of time to following their favorite opinion leaders. Alliances with influential parent bloggers—or other relevant social media influencers —to promote your products can be exceptionally effective in driving both awareness and sales. Further, these marketing programs are often less deal-dependent, and such partners can also be a great source of ideas for new marketing efforts. After all, they speak base don their own experience buying from you.
Partner marketing is about so much more than basic marketing ideas these days. When planning your back-to-school strategy, consider getting creative in forming brand-to-brand alliances that benefit both brands and consumers. In forming brand-to-brand partnerships, look for categories that align with your brand equity and consumer mindset, and then develop comarketing programs and offers. In back-to-school season, apparel and electronics represent two of the biggest categories of spend. If your brand resides in one of these categories, consider partnering in the other. If your product falls outside of these categories, both represent excellent partner targets for you.
The key to successful brand-to-brand alliances and other back-to-school partner marketing initiatives is in finding complementary brands and organizations that can align with you in message and produce mutual benefit. Done right, partner marketing can drive significant boosts in both in-store and online back-to-school sales.
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