How to get your online business ready for the back to school rush

How to get your online business ready for the back to school rush

Use the quiet summer months to get your online business ready for back to school shoppers. Here's what you need to know.


Back to school sales come around every year, and it's a time when parents of schoolchildren, teachers, and students of all ages start to shop for new equipment before the start of the next academic year. 

It's also a season of turning over a new leaf, and for e-commerce sellers, a time to start stocking up on back to school products. 

So, with that in mind, this article will teach e-commerce sellers how to put their best foot forward to maximise sales and brand awareness over the back to school sales season.


Why focus on the back to school period?

Conversion rates are higher

Following on from the relatively quieter months of July and August, September typically sees higher conversion rates for e-commerce sellers due to increased demand from families and students. 

To illustrate, UK web traffic to e-commerce sites reached its year high on Sunday 4th September 2022. This is a 12.8% increase on the daily average for September. Also, after Christmas and Easter, M&S reported that the back to school shopping period is now its third-largest retail occasion.


The market gets very competitive

Back to school products have an evergreen nature because they are in demand every year. Students will always require stationery, school uniforms, and updated computer equipment. 

This results in sellers vying for customers within a limited number of product categories since a student only requires a single pencil case or pair of shoes to start the new academic year. Therefore, brand competitiveness increases during the back to school shopping season. 


It's a chance to improve customer loyalty

For retailers that do an excellent job of marketing and promotions, the back to school season is a chance to win loyalty from customers who need to replenish their school supplies or buy the next size up in clothing as their children grow, etc. 

Therefore, offering outstanding customer service is vital for maintaining connections with customers (more on this later).


How to score an A in back to school sales 

Do your homework 

Mark your calendars with the back to school dates across all selling regions and start planning your promotions around one month ahead of term dates.

Across the UK, the exact summer holiday dates for students vary depending on the country

  • In England, 24th July - 31st August 2023
  • In Scotland, 29th June - 15th August 2023
  • In Wales, 25th July - 1st September 2023
  • In Northern Ireland, 3rd July 2023 - 1st September 2023

In the UK, digital sales revenues were 38.4% higher in the last week of August 2022 compared with the first week of September. Additionally, 53% of consumers started purchasing back to school products in mid-August.


Get your stock right

Some schools provide students with a list of products they must purchase before the new school year. Things like approved uniforms, non-branded PE kits or specific items, like scientific calculators that include advanced operation buttons for use in subjects like trigonometry. 

Moreover, depending on the region you're selling in, some schools will provide notebooks, pens and pencils to students, so e-commerce sellers may need to consider how profitable selling these items in their stores may be. Therefore, it's vital to research the best-selling back to school products in detail. Here, we've compiled a list of ideas to help inspire your research.


Stationery: in 2022, 66% of consumers in the UK planned to buy stationery items like pencils, notebooks and erasers as part of their back to school preparations.

Clothing: in 2022, 54% of Brits planned to buy clothing and accessories for the new school year. 

Electronics: 42% of Brits planned to buy electronics (such as laptops, tablets and web conferencing equipment) in their back to school shopping in 2022. 

General office supplies: 26% of Brits planned to buy general office supplies, such as furniture, to prepare for the start of the 2022 academic year. 

Best-selling back to school products:

  • Stationery: kraft paper school diary, oxford back to school stationery Set, pastel highlighter pens, drafting compass set, folding ruler
  • Clothing: black plimsolls, twin pack white long sleeved shirt, white ankle socks, black pinafore dress, unisex PE shorts
  • Technology: text-to-speech pen, scientific calculator, LCD writing pad, wireless mouse, LED desk lamp
  • Sports equipment: hydration flask, orthotic insoles, personalised boot bag, skipping rope, drawstring personalised dance bag
  • Miscellaneous school supplies: back to school decor banner, pencil toppers, revision flash cards, personalised inspiration bookmark, lockable diary

*Please note, products sourced from Amazon Best Seller List and may be subject to change.

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Plan deals to maximise profitability

Consumer demand and competition are high during the back to school shopping season, so consider offering time-sensitive discounts and offers to maximise sales. 

Here are some e-commerce tips: 

  • Consider the timing: timing is crucial when it comes to offering discounts. Aim to provide back to school deals for approximately one month, giving consumers time to organise budgets and requirements and get their deliveries before the start of the school term. 
  • Segment your customers: segment customers based on their purchase history, demographics and preferences, and offer targeted discounts to each group.
  • Monitor your margins: keep a close eye on your margins during your promotion to ensure that you're still making a profit on each sale. Consider adjusting your discount strategy if your profit margins are lower than anticipated. Repricing software can help you automatically keep tabs on your competitors' pricing models while still giving you control over how much you make on each sale. 
  • Upsell and cross-sell: use your promotion to upsell and cross-sell complementary products.
  • Create loyalty and referral schemes: ensure consumers remember and recommend your brand by applying refer-a-friend offers to post-purchase emails. 
  • Offer A+ customer service: e-commerce brands see an average 30% return rate on their items, compared with just 8% for bricks-and-mortar stores. So, ensure you create a fair returns policy and publish it to your website and post-purchase emails. A free returns policy is favoured by over 79% of shoppers, so consider offering this level of customer service . To cover the cost of free returns, factor it into your shipping price. Do all you can to minimise the number of returns by offering high-quality goods, great product descriptions and photos, and promptly answering your customers' questions. 


Factor in inflation pressures on back to school spending

Inflation is set to impact back to school spending this year, so sellers need to optimise their strategy and consider how competitively they price products based on the selling region's forecasted Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index measures the changes in average prices of goods and services consumed by households over time. 

Generally, shopping costs increase when the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rises. 

Here are some forecasted CPI rates sourced in April 2023. However, please check the figures closer to the back to school shopping period, as these predictions will likely change. 

  • UK: CPI 2023 forecast = 6% 
  • USA: CPI 2023 forecast = 4%  
  • Germany: CPI 2023 forecast = 6%
  • New Zealand: CPI 2023 forecast = 5%
  • France: CPI 2023 forecast = 5%
  • Netherlands: CPI 2023 forecast = 4% 
  • Australia: CPI 2023 forecast = 5%  
  • Singapore: CPI 2023 forecast = 5%

(Source: Financial Times

To combat the squeezing of household budgets and competing retail events, consider offering lower prices on your goods to help you attract more sales. 

For example, many consumers searching for back to school deals will look to shopping holidays like Amazon's Prime Day and summer sales. As such, it’s a good idea to lower prices during these periods to attract sales.

Important dates to remember: 

  • Amazon Prime Day falls on the 11th and 12th of July 2023 
  • French summer sales fall between 22nd June to 19th July 2023
  • Summer sales in the Netherlands run from July to August 2023
  • Summer sales in Germany run from July to August 2023
  • Alongside Australia's end of financial year in June 2023, mid-winter sales may run in July 2023 to help shift unsold stock. 
  • While there's no set sales event for back to school, retailers in New Zealand often hold mid-winter sales in July to help them clear unwanted stock. 

If your store is listed on Amazon, consider investing in an advertising push to attract more sales. In addition, ensure you price selections of goods based on varying budget constraints (ie, some products priced cheaper, while higher-end goods can stay at the same price).

Use competitor pricing software to analyse what your competitors are charging and ensure you're aligned with your selling regions' CPIs. 

And as a final tip, remember to consider fluctuations in shipping costs due to changing CPIs and currency exchange rates and adjust your prices accordingly. 

How WorldFirst can help you get top marks

In summary, making the most of back to school shopping as an e-commerce brand requires careful planning and the flexibility to create attractive back to school deals. 

A free-to-open World Account can connect to over 100+ marketplaces and gives you access to 10 local currency accounts, so you can make payments and collect funds locally or internationally quickly and conveniently. You can also secure great FX rates for up to two years with a forward contract.

If you want to learn more about the World Account, sign up for free, or call us on +44 207 326 9120. 


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