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Back to school: Time to level up

Back to school: Time to level up Featured Image


There is no surer sign that summer is drawing to a close than the looming of the Back-to-school retail moment. Despite the economic concerns leering over just about everything at the moment, the projections say expected back-to-school spending per household is still set to marginally increase. Regardless, it’s a massive retail moment and ever-growing. In the UK it cemented its position as the third largest retail moment (behind only Black Friday and Christmas) back in 2018 with over £1bn spent that year.

Despite this stature the back to school retail moment is often overlooked. In my experience the amount of preparation and the intensity of the execution is pretty lacking compared to some of the war room like environments I’ve encountered during BF/CM. Part of this is inevitable, unlike Black Friday and Christmas it doesn’t really have a set date to work around. More of a general build up and a best estimate for the peak moment if there is a well-placed weekend. A lot of marketing strategies will take a more blanket approach to budget in the lead-up, potentially increased slightly for the last couple of weeks before.

Now, I’m not intending to use this article as a critique of the best way to structure a back-to-school marketing campaign. What I’m asking is that back-to-school be taken seriously in terms of budget and result tracking. And here’s two reasons why:

It’s a soft run for the bigger retail moments

Think about the effort that goes into tracking KPIs through BF/CM retail moment. Dashboards pulling in live spend, live results, a team of marketers on-hand to react in the moment to catch errors and maximize opportunities. It rolls around every November and every year you and your team are 11 months out of practice for that level of intensity. What about the critique of last year’s effort and edits made to process and dashboards? Wouldn’t it be better to use a smaller (but still substantial) retail moment to test these things and then use the following 2 months to refine it? Having first-hand experience of a serious outage during Black Friday, I can say categorically it is not the time to leave infrastructure up to chance. A proper effort around back to school will unquestionably lift its performance while helping you derisk for the big guy in a couple months time.

It can help systematize the way you think about budgets and results
One consistent action I’ve observed among the digital marketing agencies with which I’ve worked, is that there is always an evolution towards the point of unifying data into something easy to access and easy to read. Small agile teams can move quickly but as teams grow, as platforms fragment, as responsibilities spread out, the efficacy of the agency weakens until they introduce this dashboard. A democratization of data across leaders, client services folks, and people across different digital marketing disciplines. Building a systemized way of tracking big retail moments can turbocharge that development for use year-round and lift your digital marketing. Having a system in place that tracks PPC budgets and monitors PPC results is the simplest way to improve across the board – but especially in your peak retail moments.

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