Back-to-School Marketing the “Other Black Friday”

By Lisa Merriam

back to school marketingBack-to-school marketing fuels what Shopify calls the “other Black Friday,” with B2S retail spending up an expected 10% this year to top $83.6 billion according to the National Retail Federation.

The back-to-school retail season has gotten off to an early start with Amazon’s Prime Day on July 16. The frenzy continues through September 8. Other retailers responded to that back-to-school marketing challenge:

  • Ebay directly drafted off Amazon with its own “It’s Prime Time” campaign
  • Macy’s celebrated “Black Friday in July”
  • Target reminded shoppers that early birds get the best deals
  • Staples pursued a different direction, casting itself as a back-to-school specialty store that gives shoppers serenity from chaotic and picked over aisles
  • Walmart announced its multi-channel campaigns that include mobile apps, online tools, and in store deals.

Indeed, multi-channel is the new norm for B2S shoppers. The latest National Retail Federation numbers report 44% of spending will be online. 60% of that will be on mobile devices. Almost all shoppers use a blend of channels to research products, hunt down deals, and make purchases.

Influencers are playing a greater role, especially in fashion. The New York Post declared the end of the “thud”–the sound of formerly thick back-to-work and back-to-school magazines dropping on a table. Kardashians push more fashion choices than Seventeen magazine. Indeed, at least one agency is pushing its network of high school students, the cool kids, it calls micro-influencers Pretty in Pink on steroids?

Forbes just published a collection of trend statistics on B2S retailing. In addition to Amazon pushing the B2S season to an earlier start, it is also expanding what items are considered back-to-school necessities. Beyond clothes and school supplies, salon visits, sports equipment, and even room décor sales grow during the season. Long gone are the days where back to school meant a quick visit to the local five and dime to get new pencils!


The mission of the American Marketing Association New York is to inspire, support and celebrate brilliance in marketing. Founded in 1931, the AMA New York is the principal community for marketing professionals across all industries and disciplines in the New York area. Offering programs, monthly events, and interaction with the chapter through volunteer activities, we provide marketers with an opportunity to increase their knowledge and reach in the marketing community. AMA New York is the creator of the Effies, the Greenbook and the new Marketing Hall of Fame, which honors outstanding marketers nationwide.

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